Asking for help is the doctor thing to do.
A significant number of medics, especially doctors, believe that they shouldn’t ask for mental health help because it isn’t ‘the doctor thing to do’. It appears to be common practice within the healthcare profession that the medics experience traumatic events, like losing a patient due to human error, and rather than seeking help, or taking time to fully come to terms with the event, they are expected to ‘suck it up’ and get straight back to work.
Whether this is a systemic issue, where the hospitals are so understaffed that losing a patient in the evening and being on shift the next morning is a must, or whether it’s because it’s seen as something that comes with the profession so everyone just accepts it and carries on, it doesn’t have to be this way.
The Office for National Statistics’ data for 1st June 2019 to 31st May 2020 shows that 277,000 people died either in hospital or within 30 days of discharge. It’s impossible for there to be that number of deaths within a hospital without some of the medics being affected by it, let alone then being expected to just carry on as if nothing happened.
This number will only increase in the 2020-2021 statistics, due to the coronavirus. Nurses have reported that during this coronavirus pandemic, due to the restrictions on visitation, they have had to hold phones to dying patients ears so that they can say goodbye to family members, knowing it would be the last time they speak to them. In any other year that would seem too awful to be true, but as we all know, this year every bad thing has been possible.
So whether the medics carry on due to it not being possible for them to have time off to come to terms with the events, or even because there is so much trauma within hospitals that taking time off to deal with each event would mean you’d never be in the hospital again, it shouldn’t just be expected of them to carry on as if nothing has happened. Something has happened. A person has died, and whether it was inevitable or whether it was due to something going wrong at the hands of the medics, it’s okay for it to affect them.
We need to remove the stigma around doctors and asking for help with their mental health.
Trying to push through at the expense of your mental health and possibly the expense of your ability to do your best work, is not the doctor thing to do. Telling people you are fine and it was just another bad day at work, is not the doctor thing to do. Acknowledging that you’ve been affected by a traumatic event and seeking help is the doctor thing to do. Helping yourself get in a healthier state of mind in order to be a better doctor for your future patients is the doctor thing to do. Taking an hour after your shift to speak to one of our mentors, in order to get the emotions off of your chest, instead of bottling them up, is the doctor thing to do. Asking for help is the doctor thing to do.