Medical News Today is releasing information in a study that reveals that Doctors who commit suicide; well it looks like they are under-treated for mental health problems.  We all know that they have good access to health care but it seems that this happens anyway; that is what the study from the University of Michigan shows.  Major depression is a known risk factor for suicide and it looks like that is for female physicians more.  There is a stigma, lack of confidentiality, and desire to self-treat and that may tell us why physicians don’t seek formal treatment for mental health problems.

Katherine Gold, M.D., M.S.W., M.S., and assistant professor of family medicine at the University Of Michigan Medical School has made comments regarding this study.  It was found that physicians who committed suicide were much more likely to have potentially lethal prescription medications in their system but it was not medication prescribed for depression.  “Even though this population presumably has very good access to health care, it doesn’t appear that they’re getting adequate treatment.  I think stigma about mental health is a huge part of the story.  There is a belief that physicians should be able to avoid depression or just ‘get over it’ by themselves.” Gold said.

Some other interesting things that came out of this report is that there was a difference of methods for suicide.  Firearms were no. 1 method.  No. 2 method was an overdose, and it is assumed that is because the doctors knowledge of lethal drug dosing and prescribing ability. Many of these cases could have been avoided if they had only sought out help.

On the job stress is also looked at as a bigger suicide risk factor for physicians.  When a doctor does commit suicide it is far less likely that he had a recent death of a friend or family member or a crisis that contributed to the suicide but it is found that it is much more likely to have a job problem contribute.  Gold says, “This finding suggests that a physician’s identity is strongly linked to the job role and physicians may be particularly vulnerable to problems at work.”

This one study we are talking about today follows up work from another U-M Family Medicine study that addressed risk factors for stress and burnout among medical students.

“This paints a more detailed picture of external events and risk factors in a physicians’ life before a suicide, rather than just looking at a death certificate.  We’ve seen a number of studies now that show a high rate of anxiety, depression and burnout among both medical students and physicians but we haven’t done very much to develop programs to reduce or treat these risk factors and to increase mental health seeking among physicians”.

So bottom line there needs to be a greater effort in addressing the stigma, under-diagnosis, and treatment of depression among physicians.  There is a great need to understand how stress related work can be reduced.  All of this needs to be available, safe, and confidential.

Don’t let depression be an issue, contact us if you need help.