Every doctor can recover from work-related mental injury

by Raj Das

Work-related mental injury and burnout among doctors have reached crisis levels in recent times. The medical profession must address the issue seriously and take steps to provide adequate support and treatment for doctors who are experiencing mental health issues due to their work environments.

Work-related mental injury is often under-recognized and undertreated in the medical profession. While burnout is commonly discussed, more severe forms of mental injury can be present, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), adjustment disorder, major depression, anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. These conditions require comprehensive mental health assessments and evidence-based treatments, yet they are often overlooked.

It is crucial for the medical profession to distinguish between burnout and more severe forms of mental injury. Burnout is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, distance from one’s job, and a sense of ineffectiveness. When burnout does not respond to rest and self-help strategies, it is likely to be a more serious work-related mental injury.

Supporting doctors who are experiencing mental health issues is vital. Simple actions, such as providing a listening ear and informal emotional support from colleagues, can make a significant difference. Finding new meaning and purpose in life and work, as well as having senior role models who share their vulnerabilities and recovery stories, can also be helpful.

However, the medical profession needs to prioritize advanced approaches to psychological protection, just as it prioritizes physical protection. Routine mental health screening as part of comprehensive preventive health checks and access to professional support from a trusted General Practitioner (GP) can contribute to early intervention and treatment.

Unfortunately, there is still a negative stigma and shame surrounding psychological problems in medicine. Attitudinal barriers, concerns about confidentiality, and mandatory reporting deter doctors from accessing optimal mental health care. Creating an environment where doctors can seek help confidentially and without fear of repercussions is critical.

Moreover, improving access to specialized psychological therapies and pharmaceutical treatments is essential. Doctors need to know where they can access these interventions and resources, such as online cognitive-behavioral therapy programs, specialized treatments for insomnia, and consultations with experienced therapists via telehealth.

The culture within medical workplaces also plays a significant role in exacerbating work-related mental injury. Doctors need the support and understanding of their colleagues during challenging times. Bullying, ostracism, and the expectation to “toughen up” only worsen the situation and contribute to the stigma surrounding mental health issues in the profession.

A new approach to work-related mental injury in medicine is necessary. Efforts have been made in recent years to address doctors’ mental health, but high levels of mental health problems persist. The medical profession must continue to prioritize mental health initiatives, provide resources and support, and create safer work environments for doctors.

The current crisis of work-related mental injury and burnout among doctors requires immediate action. By recognizing the difference between burnout and more severe forms of mental injury, providing appropriate support and treatment, and changing the culture within medical workplaces, significant progress can be made in safeguarding the mental well-being of doctors. Only through united efforts can the medical profession effectively tackle this crisis and ensure the well-being of its practitioners.

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