Junior doctors suffering in silence, Cardiff research proves

Source: Rohin Fraces

Junior doctors are less likely than fully qualified professionals to report suffering from mental health issues, Cardiff University research has revealed.

In a report created by Professor Debbie Cohen from the School of Medicine, it was found that only 41 per cent of doctors suffering from mental health issues would disclose such information at work.

Such statistics provide a stark comparison to the 73 per cent of doctors who confirmed they theoretically would seek help if they were to experience the same problems.

Of the 2,000 doctors involved in the study, 60 per cent confirmed having experiences with mental health, rising to 82 per cent among English doctors.

It was also found that of those who have not experienced mental health problems, only six per cent would consider seeking help from occupation health facilities. In a more worrying finding, none of trainee staff interviewed stated they would willingly go to their deanery support unit, despite it being the recommended action.

This was attributed to a lack of understanding about the support structures available, with doctors stating that there are “no options” for accessing help. Other issues included a reluctance to be labelled and the fear of involving the General Medical Council.

According to doctors, the professional responsibility of the role is a contributing factor to health problems. This includes the pressure of managing both one’s workload and personal well-being.

The British Medical Association’s General Practitioners Committee has also blamed the NHS for creating the “worst conditions in living memory” for GP’s, due to a combination of increasing demand for services and funding cuts.

Talking to the Daily Mirror, the chairman of the Family Doctor Association said: “The simple fact is that pressures on doctors are ridiculous at the moment.”

When asked who they had sought for help, 38 per cent of healthcare professionals stated that they saw occupational health staff, whilst 37 saw colleagues and only 31 per cent line mangers. It was also suggested that telling staff was not always a voluntary action but rather necessary during pre-employment screenings and when returning to work.

In the study, doctors without mental health issues were asked at which point they would theoretically seek help. The results were then compared to the time period where doctors had actually sought support in the past. The results proved that those with health problems approached colleagues and staff at a much later time than the first group predicted.

This is not the first time that concerns about the wellbeing of junior doctors have been highlighted. The findings come after a nation wide survey earlier this year found that the majority of students studying medicine “do not feel supported by their medical school” when tackling issues such as mental health.