A medical error can cost patients very dearly. At best, it will lead to an extra week of treatment and money spent on unnecessary medications, at worst, at worst – to the death of a person. Such responsibility cannot but exert psychological pressure on the medical staff, making his work more stressful, and his psychological state more unstable.
The problem of depression and suicide among medical students and doctors is relevant. One of the indicators is that this issue is always included in the lists of topics for term papers and other writings. A few months ago, The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published an article whose authors analyzed suicide statistics in the United States in 2003-2010. The study showed those professions whose people are more prone to depression and suicide. Doctors, firefighters, police officers, farmers, military personnel and rescuers were found to be three times more at risk of committing suicide in the workplace. It is explained by high level of stress and great responsibility.
How many doctors suffer from depression?
A team of researchers led by Srijan Sen of the University of Michigan and Douglas Mata of Harvard medical school decided to find out how stress affects the psychological state of doctors. The researchers analyzed data from 54 studies conducted between January 1963 and September 2015 and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The research included data on the psychological state of 17560 doctors – from newly graduated students to highly qualified specialists.
It was reported that, on average, 28.8% of doctors suffered from a depressive psychological state (taking into consideration a fact that currently about 350 000 000 people worldwide suffer from depression, which is about 5% of the world’s population). At the same time, there were no significant statistical differences between the level of depression among students and experienced doctors, as well as among medical staff of different specialties. In addition, the analysis showed that over the 50 years studied, the proportion of depressed doctors gradually increased.
The depression among young practitioners
According to the authors of the study, most often, a doctor’s depressive syndromes occur in the first years of practice, immediately after graduation from medical school. This is caused by getting a first job, a huge amount of new information, difficulties interacting with medical staff who have a lot of experience and, of course, the high level of responsibility.
Not only doctors themselves suffer from a difficult psychological start to their careers. As the results of another The study conducted by a research team led by Colin West from Mayo clinic stated that medical staff with long-term med school depression tend to make mistakes when treating patients. Scientists conducted a survey among young practitioners, asking them questions about the number of mistakes made in recent months. They also asked how these mistakes affected their psychological state. It turned out that mistakes made during the first time of independent work often have a discouraging effect on young professionals, making them doubt their own knowledge and professionalism. As a result, the doctor begins to devote less time to rest, as well as overwork, and at the same time read additional literature. All this leads to a depressed psychological state, and the number of errors does not decrease, but, on the contrary, increases — according to researchers, about twice. The doctor’s attitude to patients may also change — the doctor begins to perceive them not as people who need to be cured, but as a source of problems and psychological stress.
Depression in medical school
Medical students, who suffer from depression, often believe that it is risky to admit their condition to someone else. Some of the reasons are the fear of recognizing the problem, the fear of seeking help, and the inability to cope with depression on their own. Students of medical schools with moderate to severe depression are more likely to believe that their fellow students will not consider their opinion if they find out about their condition. Future doctors are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. They tend to experience emotional burnout, and the quality of their lives is lower than that of other people of the same sex and age.
It is noteworthy that medical students receive professional help less often than people who are far from medicine. Perhaps this is because they are more ashamed of their depression. Moreover, students with more serious depression are less likely to seek professional help.
The reasons and the solutions
What is the reason for the spread of emotional disorders among doctors in four dozen countries? Why does medical school and depression are now walking hand in hand? The high competition among students and the complexity of training in medical schools cause anxiety and stress — and there is not far from depression in med school and the worse of it – medical students suicide. There are several solutions for changing the situation. For instance, revision of the curriculum and assessment criteria of the students. But one of the main solutions, of course, is to apply for confidential counselling by mental health professionals and have an appropriate medical therapy. However, there are still obstacles to following these recommendations. Among them are the following:
- Lack of necessary resources;
- Long waiting time for a specialist consultation;
- Lack of finances for medical students;
- Lack of medical insurance for students;
- Students ‘ unwillingness to inform their parents about their mental disorders;
- Lack of time due to a busy study schedule.
Until measures are taken to eliminate these obstacles, the number of depressions identified in medical students will continue to grow.