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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – #Depression, #Suicides Are Occupational Hazards, Doctor Writes

Journal commentary cites gaps between what medical trainees are told by educators and what they experience.

picture of African American female doctor sitting in a chair while working late

Medical students, residents and physicians in practice experience high rates of burnout, #depression and #suicide.

Medical school administrators have known for years that initially healthy clinician trainees go on to experience #depression, burnout and #suicide at higher rates than the general population. Early efforts to remedy the problem have focused on improving trainees’ recognition of warning signs and building their resilience with wellness programs.

But putting the onus on clinicians to strengthen their character has allowed administrators to mostly ignore the taxing training environments and policies that, starting in medical school, contribute to #mentalillness and suicidality, writes Dr. Elisabeth Poorman, a general internist and  clinical instructor with the #UniversityofWashington School of Medicine.

Her commentary (PDF) will be published Aug. 5 in the Journal of Patient Safety and Risk Management. 

Dr. Elisabeth Poorman
Dr. Elisabeth Poorman is a general internist at the UW Neighborhood Clinic in Kent-Des Moines.

“To understand the risk of #mentalillness and #suicide as occupational hazards” of the practice of medicine, Poorman writes, “would shift our conversation from individual strategies to systemic ones.”

“There’s been a lot of speculation about individuals’ risk factors that may predispose them to #depression. I would argue that individuals’ risk factors continue to be raised as a red-herring excuse to avoid making the big, systemic changes needed to tackle this problem,” she said.

JamesDonaldson notes:

 Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle


As an intern, Poorman experienced an episode of #depression and had difficulty finding support through recommended channels.

“Colleagues told me that what I was experiencing was normal, and I felt strongly that it was not. With treatment, I got better very quickly, but it took almost a year to make that happen. Why does such a delay exist?”

She also voiced concerns about programs in which a faculty member is identified as a point of contact for a trainee seeking support for #depression or burnout – and that same faculty member is evaluating residents’ skills and readiness. This conflict is exacerbated by the lack of clear guidelines about what #mental-health information may be appropriately shared, in a professional context, and which should remain confidential.

Poorman wrote the commentary for medical students, residents and practicing physicians – and their mentors, she said.

“I want to call attention to the gap between what educators think and say is available, in terms of #mental-health support, and what trainees experience.

”Elisabeth Poorman, “#Depression and #suicide: Occupational hazards of practicing medicine,” Journal of Patient Safety and Risk Management, DOI: [10.1177/2516043519866993]

— Brian Donohue, 206.543.7856, bdonohue@uw.eduCategory: Issues

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