What is the role of self-treatment of depression in physician suicide?

Updated: Jun 11, 2017
  • Author: Louise B Andrew, MD, JD; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Despite the protections afforded by law to citizens and other professionals who have disabilities, the potentially devastating effects triggered by a physician’s self reporting of depression may delay or, in effect, preclude appropriate treatment.

Although everyone knows that a doctor who treats himself or herself "has a fool for a patient,” we also know that most physicians treat themselves anyway, at least on occasion. This is especially likely when the physician believes that the consequences of seeking treatment may subject him or her to stigma, shame, or worse.

Because many states require reporting by other licensed physicians of a physician who may be suffering from a potentially impairing condition, physicians can be reluctant to seek treatment from colleagues, or from utilizing their insurance coverage, or even from using their own names when seeking treatment. A physician whose thought processes are clouded by depression and the anticipated consequences of seeking treatment for it may honestly believe that self-treatment is the only safe option. One analysis of physician suicide data relative to nonphysician victims revealed a much lower prevalence of antidepressant medication in the blood of physician victims, which is an objective indication of the truth that physicians do not receive mental health care in proportion to their need. [23] Too often, however, attempts at self-treatment are unsuccessful. Failure to obtain consultation and treatment for depression needlessly and significantly increases the risk of physician suicide.


Source Article: Physician Suicide: Problems With Treating Physician Depression

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