Stress and suicide among health care workers
Posted on 1st May 2015 by Ashline Amilcar
We all know the consequences of chronic stress on physical and mental health. However it seems that health workers consider stress and burnout to be an inherent part of their job and are not aware of their impact on themselves and colleagues. I’ve also noticed that since their training period personal well-being is not seen as important for health workers. For example, occupying free time for personal life and recreation is seen by many students as a sign of laziness or lack of ambition.
What happens to mental health during medical training?
stigma about mental disorders remains even among physicians. Do medical schools contribute to the well-being of students or help them to recognize personal depression symptoms? Answers can be found in a JAMA article that relates to lower quality of life and higher rate of burnout syndrome among medical students or residents compared to other career trainees. It´s not a surprise to know that physicians suffer from a much higher suicide rate than the general population, with the JAMA article reporting that about 400 physicians in the US die by suicide yearly. The same article also complains that data about suicide and depression among medical trainees is harder to track since medical schools refuse to release information about suicide rates. In the end, stigma about mental disorders remains even among physicians, which constitutes an obstacle for those suffering to openly seek help when it’s needed, and for researchers in obtaining accurate data.
What would improve quality of life for health workers and trainees?
See here for a Cochrane review that reports effectiveness of cognitive behavioural training, physical and mental relaxation in reducing stress symptoms (13% relative risk reduction for cognitive behavioural training). Some organisational improvements such as changes in work schedules also reduce stress. However, well-designed studies with specific interventions are still lacking, as are firm conclusions based on high quality evidence.
I think that promoting well-being of health workers is sure to increase empathy and compassion toward patients and we should be convinced that the mental health status of professionals is a priority for any and every health care system.
Rubin, Rita. ‘Recent Suicides Highlight Need To Address Depression In Medical Students And Residents’. JAMA 312.17 (2014): 1725. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
Ruotsalainen JH, Verbeek JH, Mariné A, Serra C. Preventing occupational stress in healthcare workers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD002892. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002892.pub3. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD002892.pub3/othervers…
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