THE BLOG

We Have to Tackle the Widespread Stigma of Doctors Asking for Help

21/03/2016 17:10 GMT | Updated 22/03/2017 09:12 GMT

A survey released this month by the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (RMBF) has revealed that an alarming number of doctors are experiencing mental health and wellbeing problems, such as depression and anxiety as a result of working under increasing pressure and scrutiny. Yet despite their obvious need for support and advice, the doctors surveyed also said they are unlikely to seek help for fear of discrimination or stigma from colleagues (84%).

These are the professionals who work tirelessly to support us in our times of need, yet feel too proud or ashamed to ask for help themselves.

Oxford GP Dr Richard Stevens, also a coach at Thames Valley Health Education England has developed a free downloadable online guide, 'The Vital Signs', which highlights key trigger points and warning signs for doctors coping with heavy workloads, stress and potential burnout, as well as signposting organisations and support networks for those in need. Worryingly, two thirds of those interviewed felt that the NHS provided a poor level of support to doctors and their families.

The guide has been produced as part of the RMBF's new campaign 'What's Up Doc?' which aims to highlight the importance of supporting doctors throughout the UK who are working under increasing difficulty.

Doctors surveyed were also asked to identify the key factors contributing to the growing pressures on the profession today. It found that:

- 80% say patient case-loads are a key factor

- 80% say increased scrutiny is an issue (CQC inspections, pressure of revalidation, etc.)

- 76% say working hours are a factor

Every year, via our network of over 250 volunteers, the RMBF helps hundreds of doctors, medical students and their families who are struggling due to financial concerns or ill-health - all in complete confidence. I feel privileged to be a part of this team. However, in reality we know that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more doctors who feel too ashamed or embarrassed to come forward - or perhaps they are as yet unfamiliar with the work of the charity? We want to change this, and hope that by raising awareness of these issues and openly discussing them, we will go some way towards breaking down the barriers of stigma and shame. I would urge any doctor in difficulty to contact us, because no one should feel too proud to ask for help or have to suffer in silence.

If you or someone you know is in need of support, visit www.rmbf.org for more information. Help spread the word and support our campaign by following us on Twitter @TheRMBF, and use the campaign hashtag #WhatsUpDoc.