Why are we so bad at calling for help?

 Doctors’ Mental Health

With 58% of doctors now suffering from some form of anxiety or depression – and 46% saying their condition had worsened since last March – we begin serialising sections of a new book edited by Dr Clare Gerada. This month: Doctors and mental illness.

A medical degree gives no protection from the normal vicissitudes or hardships of life. Doctors have the same mental illnesses as the general population. 

Where doctors do differ is not in the illnesses they get, but rather in how they present, their prevalence, potential impact and outcome. 

Perhaps the most significant difference is how hard it is to cross that invisible boundary from professional to patient, even when that boundary is for a physical, rather than a psychological disorder. 

I am guilty of this myself. When knocked off my bike en route to my evening surgery, instead of abandoning ship and going to the accident and emergency department, I hailed a taxi and completed the clinic – with blood oozing from my foot and in great pain. 

It did not cross my mind that I could have cancelled and sought help. This was a physical illness. It is even harder for doctors to seek help for mental illness. For doctors, mental illness is their shameful secret, hidden from sight.