Punitive Actions Are Forcing Doctors to Hide their Mental Health Conditions

Mental Health News: The pandemic appears to have hit the medical field, with doctors losing their jobs, thus resulting in various mental health conditions.

Within a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors have started struggling with the hazards in their workplace followed by trauma, death, and lack of sleep. In fact, it had only added to the troubles that the physicians already faced before the pandemic. A 2018 literature review states that in the last 10 years, physician suicide was twice the rate of the general population.

While the general public can seek mental health care without worrying about their career risk, it is not the same for doctors. Once a doctor seeks help for mental health issues, he/she is obligated to report his/her condition on the application for a state medical license. Clarifying mental health-related screening questions can raise a red flag, putting the physician’s license at risk. After a decade of education and medical school debt, doctors are usually worried about risking their livelihood.

Interviews with doctors have revealed that extraordinary measures are taken to avoid being linked to a mental health diagnosis. Doctors have to travel to an out-of-state pharmacy for medications. They have to pay cash to see a therapist or psychiatrist so that their health insurance billing isn’t linked to a mental illness, and they only choose to discuss their struggles with the one they trust. State medical boards are accountable for licensing, investigating, and disciplining a physician.

Findings state that nearly 40% of physicians were unwilling to get help for a mental health condition because of the result it is likely to produce on their medical license. Studies also note that untreated mental health conditions can result in worsening illness and suicide. To address the issue, the American Medical Association has adopted a new policy in 2018. It encourages the state licensing boards to concentrate screening questions on a physician’s current impairment rather than past medical history.

For More Information, You May Refer To:

Rafiquddin, S. (2021). Are punitive rules forcing doctors to hide their mental health problems? the Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/10/doctors-mental-health-coronavirus?

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