According to the CDC, mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in America, and physicians are not immune. Still, doctors are more reticent to seek mental health care than the general population, in part due to concerns over confidentiality, licensure, job security, and professional image.
Some physicians may be more comfortable sharing their mental health struggles with a trusted colleague, and there is evidence that peers can provide early recognition, emotional support, and referrals for distressed co-workers. How?
Recognition: Indicators of mental distress include:
- Negative, unexpected changes in emotions, attitude, or behavior.
- Self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs.
- Impaired work performance.
- Uncharacteristic conflicts with colleagues.
- Unusual mood swings or outbursts.
- Express concern in a respectful, supportive way.
- Share your own struggles, past or present, with stress.
- Ask if they want to discuss.
- If so, listen and ask open-ended questions (what, how, why).
- Avoid playing “therapist.”
- Determine if they want professional support.
Referral: If your colleague is amenable, you can recommend a trusted mental health resource you know.