BLUF

Concerns are increasing about rising rates of mental health problems and suicide among doctors.

Summary

We rely on doctors to diagnose our illnesses and, when necessary, trust them to perform high-risk, life-saving procedures. Yet, most of us give little thought to the stress of being a doctor and the mental-health toll that often accompanies the job. A recent review by the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney was published in The Lancet. This study found that doctors were at an increased risk of suicide. Furthermore, the researchers found that while mental health problems were growing even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there is evidence that the impact of the pandemic on medical staff is creating even more significant mental health problems. The review found:
  • Female doctors appeared to be at particular risk, with a suicide rate significantly higher than women in the general population. 
  • What has been an open secret among doctors is now being increasingly acknowledged.
  • Concern had escalated following several high-profile suicide clusters among doctors.
  • Similar concern had also arisen in other professions, such as first responders, with those professions concerned there might be something psychologically toxic about their work.
Co-author of the study, Professor Kimberlie Dean—Chair of Forensic Mental Health at UNSW—said studies emerging from countries significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic indicated that up to half of all doctors are reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety.