According to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan, under-treatment for mental health problems may be why the suicide rate among physicians is so much higher than average.
Current data that appear in General Hospital Psychiatry show that more physicians than non-physicians with mental health problems commit suicide. It also showed that the doctors did not necessarily take antidepressants like Paxil to treat the condition, either. In fact, it seems the exact opposite is true; physicians rarely seek professional help in dealing with depression because they are afraid of the stigma attached to the condition. They also fear that there will be no confidentiality, which causes many doctors to treat themselves. Doctors who commit suicide are more likely to do so by taking a lethal amount of prescription medications that do not include antidepressants.
“Even though this population presumably has very good access to health care, it doesn’t appear that they’re getting adequate treatment,” says the study’s lead author, Katherine J. Gold, M.D., M.S.W., M.S., assistant professor of family medicine and of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School. “I think stigma about mental health is a huge part of the story. There is a belief that physicians should be able to avoid depression or just ‘get over it’ by themselves.”
While doctors are quick to prescribe antidepressant drugs for their patients, including Paxil and Effexor, it is a wonder that they don’t consider the same medications when treating themselves. This could have some patients wondering if it is the drugs’ potentially lethal side effects that stop them. Paxil and Effexor are both linked to suicidal and violent thoughts and behaviors. The drugs are also not proven to even work on patients suffering from severe and moderate depression. What this new study shows is that doctors are no better off than the patients they treat in terms of fighting depression.