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Doctors reluctant to confide in colleagues over mental illness

7 August 2009

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Only a fifth of doctors would confide in their colleagues if they began to suffer mental health problems, a survey has revealed.

Almost three quarters (73%) said they would talk to family or friends if they developed a mental illness, while 13% said they would seek advice from professional or governmental organisations. Some 7% said they would keep their problem to themselves completely.

The survey, by the Royal College of Physicians, discovered that a third (33%) of non-psychiatric doctors were concerned that speaking out about their illness would have a negative impact on their career.

The survey, published in the journal Clinical Medicine, polled 3,512 doctors in Birmingham and 2,462 (70%) replied – 677 consultants, 542 GPs, 441 senior house officers, 273 specialist registrars and 529 others.

Dr Alfred White, speaking on behalf of the research team, said that doctors suffer higher levels of depression and had higher rates of suicide than the general population.

He said: “Doctors who are reluctant to seek professional advice for mental health issues may be putting themselves, and possibly also their patients, at risk.”

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Royal College of Physicians