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Doctors hiding their mental health issues due to fear of stigma

15 March 2016

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More than eight in 10 doctors won’t reach out about mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, due to fear of discrimination or stigma from colleagues, a new survey suggested.

The poll, released today by the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (RMBF), surveyed 1,351 doctors in primary and secondary care.

It found that 82% of doctors know of other doctors experiencing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. However, doctors are unlikely to reach out because of fear of discrimination or stigma from colleagues (84%), or are inhibited by their ‘high achieving’ personality traits (66%).

The key factors contributing to the significant pressure on doctors:
•   80% say patient case loads are a key factor.
•   80% say increased scrutiny (e.g. CQC inspections, pressure of revalidation) is a key factor.
•   76% say working hours are a key factor.

This is also affecting doctors’ personal lives, the charity found, as nearly three-quarters (73%) of those surveyed know of other doctors experiencing marital and family problems. Over 90% believe their working hours put personal relationships under pressure.

The charity RMBF is now launching a campaign called What’s Up Doc? to raise awareness of the need to offer mental health support to doctors throughout the UK.

Steve Crone, RMBF’s chief executive, said: “We are hoping that our new campaign will raise awareness of the need to offer vital support to doctors and their dependents. After all, these are the professionals who work tirelessly to support us in our times of need.”

Worryingly, of those doctors surveyed the majority (66%) felt that the NHS provided a poor level of support to doctors and their families.

“I would urge any doctor in difficulty to reach out – no one should feel too proud or ashamed to ask for help,” Crone added.