Here are 5 ways doctors can take control of their health

The confrontation with mental health stigma is long overdue, but necessary to help doctors in need.

Doctors are burnt out – a natural consequence of heroically manning the front lines of the pandemic. What is less understood is the stigma that prevents doctors from seeking treatment for their burnout. As a society, we suffer from a core weakness that stems from ignorance: a large segment of the population, including doctors, still does not see mental health as an integral part of their overall well-being.

This oversight has dangerous consequences for doctors who need urgent treatment. Mental health care is a fundamental human right and indicator of overall health. Treatment and regular mental health care should be an industry standard to avoid serious consequences and unnecessary suffering for doctors and their patients.

Doctors and nurses notoriously suffer from a poor work-life balance due to the demands of the industry. With the rise of asynchronous and 24/7 on-demand care, there is little to no boundary between work and home – and potentially detrimental professional consequences for setting boundaries. The pandemic created an already festering issue: a labor shortage and years of trauma left many overworked and overburdened. With no solutions in sight, we face a national health crisis.

As of September 2022, 40% of healthcare workers felt fear or anxiety about going to work, and nearly half (49%) of US healthcare workers say they are about to or seeking new employment due to the stress and trauma they endure at work. Doctors are processing trauma, trying to manage the semblance of a personal life, and navigating an increasingly online world, all while trying to provide quality care for patients in their most vulnerable moments.

While many healthcare workers have left the field in the past two years, those who have stayed are having a harder time than ever. Male physicians are especially at risk: 58% of male healthcare workers in the US reported that they are either at their breaking point or looking for a new job. The data for women isn’t much better, with 45% of those surveyed reporting a similar experience. These results portend a ticking time bomb: this already understaffed industry is about to collapse.

Mental health stigma adds more fuel to the fire; one in three men surveyed is unwilling to admit they have a problem (compared to one in 10 women), and nearly one in three men avoid help because they fear possible judgment from colleagues and family (compared to one in 10 women). Men are stereotypically expected to adhere to a toxic masculine doctrine that prioritizes toughness over vulnerability. The “hard-it-out” mentality (combined with an already impossible workload) discourages men from seeking care. If doctors want to provide quality treatment, they must first and foremost take care of their health and realize that mental health care is not an accessory or an afterthought. Doctors and patients don’t have to hit rock bottom before they get the help they need.

Stigma aside, 25% of male and 17% of female physicians say the healthcare system is too difficult to navigate. What hope does a patient have when professionals are overwhelmed by their own industry? Whether it’s perception or the reality of nonsensical logistics, doctors need to feel more comfortable taking care of their own mental needs if they expect to understand and serve their patients. Here are five concrete steps health professionals can take to improve their mind and body health:

1. Recognize that doctors are people too.

It would be easy to forget that healthcare workers are not superhuman. We like to praise doctors who work themselves into the ground and avoid investing in real support, but the truth is that we are all mortal. If you have a body and a mind, you need rest, recovery and care. While it may feel natural and professional to put the health and well-being of patients above all else, it is impossible to provide quality care in the face of burnout, trauma and exhaustion. If caregivers postpone their own mental and physical needs, they will soon become patients themselves.

2. Recognize mental health care is healthcare.

We must recognize that mental health care is health care. Treating anxiety, depression or burnout is just as important as treating a pulled muscle or broken bone – in fact, poor mental health can negatively impact physical health. Getting support for your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of; it is a necessary part of routine wellness care.

3. Find a healthcare provider who addresses your unique needs with an iterative approach.

All healthcare professionals should understand and appreciate the value of finding a healthcare provider who addresses their unique needs. We do this during treatment at APN by providing a specialized pathway for healthcare professionals, tailored to the specific needs of physicians and other healthcare professionals. healthcare providers.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety or PTSD, it is essential to reach out to a therapist who can address your concerns through a tailored treatment, not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can be particularly helpful in addressing trauma when combined with regular talk therapy. Ketamine-assisted therapy and Deep TMS may be beneficial alternatives for those who cannot find relief from psychological symptoms with drugs and other traditional modalities.

4. Share useful resources.

If we want to learn how to navigate backward systems, we must demand better resources. Health professionals can access physician health programs through the Federation of State Physician Health Programs to help them navigate problems and find treatment options. Healthcare management must prioritize clear communication and establish internal programs to ensure that their employees receive care.

5. Find a telehealth provider if you can’t schedule in-person care.

It can be challenging to get in-person therapy, but luckily telehealth options can fit into even the busiest schedules. Mental health apps can be a life-saving option, bridging the service gap and providing support when you need it most. If you’re not completely comfortable with individual therapy, group telehealth sessions can be a great way to build a sense of understanding and camaraderie; a therapist supervises the session and ensures safety for everyone involved.

The reality of this crisis is that there are no quick fixes – we are in this predicament because we have systematically failed to act. Now the only way forward is long overdue change, and it starts with aggressively confronting mental health stigma.

The clearest path to change starts with redefining mental health care, changing the narrative and reframing how we act toward those in treatment. Doctors should not be forced to establish their diagnosis or need for support. We must view mental health as an essential foundation of overall health.

When we view healthcare through a mind-body lens, we empower physicians and patients to become their own wellness advocates. Only then can doctors be truly healthy and able to provide patients with the quality of care they deserve. The time to act was yesterday. We must lead the way and support healthcare providers before the entire system collapses around us.

As CEO of All Points North, a whole-person health company that provides innovative, tailored treatments for the entire behavioral, mental, and physical wellness continuum of care, Noah Nordheimer is a visionary leader with a passion for helping others find their own True to find north. After an injury turned into an addiction, Noah experienced firsthand just how impressive recovery can be. Now he is committed to destigmatizing mental health treatment and is committed to aligning behavioral health with physical health to provide more access points for care.

Here are 5 ways doctors can take control of their health

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