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Wednesday 23 October 2019

DOCTORS IN DISTRESS. The suicide rate is the highest of any profession. Why is this?

One doctor commits suicide every day in the USA, according to the WebMD website, the highest suicide rate of any profession, and more than double the general population. These were the findings presented at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 2018 . Yet this problem is not confined to America, studies from Finland, Norway, Australia, Singapore and China have shown an increase in anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts among medical students and health care professionals.

In England the situation is no different. In September 2018, Pulse (the GP's e-newsletter) outlined data that showed over 400 doctors had committed suicide in 4 years.

So why is being a doctor such a stressful occupation? Doctors are generously paid. They are respected members of local communities. They are portrayed positively in an endless stream of television series. And their social role is an aspiration for many young people. It is widely known that doctors work long hours, and they work daily with patients who are very sick. Yet even so, why do so many doctors feel it necessary to end their lives?

The main reason may reside within the performance of the conventional medical system, and our expectations of it.
  • It is widely believed that conventional medicine, and pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, are winning the war against illness and disease.
  • When we are ill our first thought is usually to visit our doctor, who we confidently expect will be able to make us well again.
It is this that motivates people to enter the medical profession, and they do so full of hope and expectation of doing good, and helping people. Unfortunately, the reality is all too different.
  • So patients are just not getting better. They get sick and they are prescribed a drug. The drug, if effective at all, has only short-term effects; so the patient needs more, repeat prescriptions. And the longer they take the drug, the more likely they are to suffer side effects. And these side-effect-illnesses then have to be treated - with more drugs.
  • Doctors don't see their patients getting better. They actually get worse, month by month, often before their very eyes. The number of patients waiting outside the surgery door does not reduce, it grows, with older patients returning regularly because they are still ill, and new patients arriving all the time.
  • Yet patients are not part of this loop. They continue to believe the conventional medicine is the route to good health, that doctors have the answer to all their medical problems. After all, this is what patients are told, in the mainstream media, by leading health professionals, by pharmaceutical industry propaganda. They face expectations they are unable to meet.
  • So patients demand the impossible of them. They demand that doctors prescribe - something, anything. Yet they have nothing safe or effective to prescribe. My recent blog about the Opioid scandal is a case in point. Doctors have been told to restrict opioid prescriptions: but they are actually prescribing more. Why? The study on which this finding was based said that doctors are limited in the choices they have for dealing with chronic pain.
* So whilst teachers teach - and reap the rewards of seeing their pupils learn.....

* Whilst the police undertake their duties, investigate crime - and keep the public safe.....

* Whilst carers care for their clients - and are rewarded by their gratitude.....

.... doctors treat their patients and they never get well; they get sicker, they are not able to meet their patients demands for drugs, they become grossly overworked by increasingly un-deliverable demands being made on their time.

It is the most depressing situation I can imagine.

On top of this, more recently, there have been problems in recruitment. For many years fewer people are wanting to become doctors. So whilst there is more demand for doctors most colleges are failing to recruit sufficient students to fill the number of places they offer.

So as doctors retire, many taking early retirement, or leave the profession, or indeed, commit suicide, those who are left are put under an even greater strain, and this seriously affects the mental health of many of the remaining doctors. So my conclusion, my answer to why so many doctors are taking their own lives, is almost inevitable.....

Doctors are in serious distress because they are in the front-line of a profession, a medical system, that is failing badly

For more information on doctor burn-out, where the problem is linked to the concept of "moral injury", watch this video, "Burned out doctors or broken system".