Delhi

Suicide among doctors a public health crisis, says IMA

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‘Long working hours, violence by patients and their kin, and stress taking a toll’

With half-a-dozen of its doctors having reportedly checked themselves into the psychiatric ward since early this year, the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has begun a very aggressive rehabilitation process for its doctors.

“Understanding that there is a problem is the first step towards fixing it. We have a system in place to help students facing issues with settling in. We are now looking to set up wellness centres for our doctors. The stress and pressure that they face daily is very real and we as an institution can’t ignore the health of our healers,” said a senior AIIMS official.

Suffering silently

However, this isn’t the first time that the country’s premier Institute has raised its voice for adequate care of the mental health of its doctors. Late last year, the AIIMS resident doctors’ association (RDA) had written to the administration seeking counsellors and an independent helpline number for medical professionals.

“It isn’t easy for doctors to admit that they need help with their mental health. In the institute, at least one doctor commits suicide every year. The number of attempted suicides is higher,” said a doctor from the AIIMS psychiatry department.

“Many doctors contact me at a personal level because there is a stigma attached to mental health. Doctors are too shy/scared to accept that they themselves have to seek help, especially for issues relating to mental health,” he added.

Just this year, six AIIMS doctors were admitted to the psychiatric ward, seeking treatment for mental health.

The problem is not restricted to AIIMS alone.

Many stress points

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) recently pointed out that suicide among physicians is a public health crisis and should be tackled before its too late.

The association noted that long working hours, taxing medical training, violence against doctors, stress of saving lives, seeing trauma at such close quarters and constantly, are all points of stress.

“They battle stress, strain, depression, career setback, personal tragedies etc., and through it all keep working in a very competitive field that can break even the best,” said the IMA.

Nurses affected too

Medical care providers said that mental health issues are not restricted to doctors alone and is rampant among the nursing community as well. “The strain and work load is unimaginable. Nurses work closely with patients and their families and it becomes difficult to remain totally detached and unaffected,” said a nurse from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.

She added that no medical professional would, however, want a medical record of having a mental health issue. “It is not looked upon kindly,” she said.

AIIMS RDA president Dr. Harjiit Singh Bhatti said: “The institute urgently requires psychiatrists/psychologists. We have been demanding counsellors too, which has not been fulfilled.” He added that many doctors suffer from depression and anxiety.

Doctors from LNJP Hospital added that “long work hours and staff shortage also take a toll. For medical students, the training is extremely taxing and can take a toll on their mental and physical health.”

IMA national president Ravi Wankhedkar said: “Doctors sometimes work for 60 hours a week. It is important to address the concerns of students and healthcare professionals and identify the signs of depression at an early stage to prevent suicides.”

The association has suggested that doctors and other medical staff should actively ensure robust mental health. “Rest, recreation, need for physical activities should be understood. Also, it is vital to recognise mental strain as early as possible to mitigate damage,” he added.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 1:26:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/suicide-among-doctors-a-public-health-crisis-says-ima/article23396037.ece

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