August 31, 2020
Yet stigma keeps many doctors from getting the care they need
- The pandemic has put additional strain on already time-strapped providers
- Mental health services are essential for doctors, who already face a higher risk for suicide
- Many doctors don’t seek mental health care because of the perceived stigma
COVID-19 has likely forced you to shift your priorities and adjust your treatment plans — at least temporarily. More than three-quarters of doctors Medscape surveyed said the pandemic has changed the way they work significantly or very significantly.
The virus has also impacted doctors’ health. As of August, more than 900 health workers had died from COVID-19, and many more had become ill. “Physicians have been sick. They’ve been taking care of sick colleagues, they’ve been taking care of sick patients,” Weill Cornell Medicine colon and rectal surgeon, Dr. Heather Yeo tells SurvivorNet Connect. She says the intense pressure on doctors from the pandemic has created a pressing need for better mental health resources.
While doctors are adept at referring their patients to mental health services, when it comes to their own needs they may fall short. Fear of being perceived as weak or unable to do their jobs has created a stigma that prevents many physicians from accessing the mental health care they need, Dr. Yeo says. Inadequate treatment may be one reason why the risk for suicide is so much higher among doctors than it is in the general population.
As the pandemic continues, mental health care services will become even more critical for clinicians. “I think there’s going to be a lot of long-term mental health effects from COVID,” Dr. Yeo says. “Making sure that we take care of our providers is going to be very important, because they are a limited resource.”