Suicidal physicians unlikely to get treatment

Half of surveyed doctors report at least one symptom of burnout

Physicians are at increased risk for suicide, but few doctors who are depressed get the mental-health help they need, according to a study published in General Hospital Psychiatry. Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System found that physicians who committed suicide were much more likely to have potentially lethal prescription medications in their system, but not medication prescribed for depression.

Despite having seemingly good access to healthcare, physicians may avoid treatment for mental-health problems due to stigma, lack of confidentiality and desire to self-treat, lead author Katherine J. Gold, assistant professor of family medicine and of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a statement.

A dangerously high number of physicians are at risk. According to a recent study out of the Mayo Clinic, nearly half of doctors surveyed said they'd experienced at least one symptom of burnout, such as emotional exhaustion, low enthusiasm, cynicism, depression, suicidal tendencies, negative views on work-life balance and low professional esteem. Although more people discuss the severe repercussions of poor physician well-being today, most existing remedies fail because they focus on the symptoms of burnout rather than the root causes, such as physician personality, according to an article from the Psychiatric Times.

"Before something can be done to reduce the high numbers of burnout, the 'runaway train' that is the driven physician needs to be stopped," wrote author Natalie Timoshin. In order to create better work-life balance, the well-doctor checkup, exercise and mindful meditation are critical tools to improve physician concentration and help doctors recognize what fulfills them, she added.  

To learn more:
- see the statement from the University of Michigan Health System
- read the abstract from General Hospital Psychiatry
- check out the story from the Psychiatric Times

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