Sunday, April 12, 2015
America's doctors kill themselves at unprecedented rates
Patients are not the only ones unhappy with the current medical system. Many physicians are equally unhappy. This article shows one unfortunate consequence of this frustration. Instead of running away from the problem, physicians can be brave and take another path - one that leads towards a fix our healthcare system. Patients and physicians actually have a great deal of power in this economy - power that is untapped as they have been made to feel that we should be subservient to business and accounting needs. When something is not working, we need to feel empowered to fixing it.
There are many theories about why so many doctors kill themselves. They face the pressures of “assembly-line medicine,” merciless scheduling demands, fights with insurance companies, growing regulations, and an explosion in scientific literature with which their knowledge must remain current. Their debt burdens often total hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they work in constant fear of malpractice suits.
Internists routinely screen their patients for depression and anxiety—it’s considered the standard of care for an annual physical. But doctors, Wible says, must live up to a different set of standards. In medical school, professors teach their driven young students to put their own emotions aside, even as they attend to tragedy. “In general, we’re in a profession that will shun you if you show weakness or suffering in any way,” she says.
But the taboo on discussing mental illness in medicine is beginning to waver. Wible’s 2014 “Medscape” story on doctor suicide had more than 100,000 readers and attracted 800 comments, the most in the website’s 20-year history. In a related article, she recounted the story of a retired surgeon whose medical school professor told his students that if they decided to commit suicide, they should do it right. He then provided detailed instructions.
Small wonder, then, that many medical students report being depressed but consider it a weakness to ask for help themselves. One study found that only 22 percent of medical students who screened positive for depression sought help from a therapist, and that only 42 percent of those who had suicide ideation received treatment.
Instead, many self-medicate. About 9 percent of the U.S. population suffers from an alcohol- or substance-use disorder. Among doctors, that figure is between 10 to 15 percent.