Our own mental well-being deteriorates

The state of mental health in the United States may be poor, but what about psychiatrists in particular?

PSYCHIATRIC PERSPECTIVES ON EVERYDAY NEWS

In our latest daily column, “Do We Have the Worst Mental Health and Care in the World?”, we discussed the general deterioration of mental health and care in the United States. Is this also true specifically for ourselves?

On February 18, 2022, the results of the Medscape Psychiatrist Lifestyle, Happiness and Burnout Report 2022 were released.1 The report examined our personal and professional lives.

Despite the usual limitations of the study methodology – a limited number of participants and a short survey – the results are still worth considering as an ongoing annual reflection of our mental health. Here are some of the results.

1. Before the pandemic, 79% of psychiatrists said they were “very” or “somewhat” happy outside of work, but now that number has dropped to 57%.

2. Although psychiatrists are below average among doctors in burnout, we are still at 38%, with emergency medicine being the highest at 60%.

3. The burnout rate for female psychiatrists is 46%, compared to 30% for males.

4. Psychiatrists try to use reduced work hours as the main strategy to reduce burnout.

5. 24% of all physicians reported being “clinically depressed” versus 39% of psychiatrists.

Looking at this data is perhaps unsurprising in a sense, given the impact of the pandemic on the health and mental health of clinicians. That is, the increase in undue stress and barriers to healing should increase the percentage of psychiatrists who burn out to some degree, and frontline emergency physicians would come out on top. Women psychiatrists often have increased stressors at home. Nevertheless, these data say little about the success of recent efforts to reduce burnout.

What seems more unexpected and worrisome for psychiatrists is the major increase in subjective “clinical depression“, right down to the percentage of these psychiatrists who burn out. What could explain this and what can help? Marital satisfaction has remained high, so family life is unlikely to be the main culprit.

I suspect it’s the loss of live interaction with patients. Although telepsychiatry is touted as being able to replace the risk of live treatment during the pandemic, ours is a field based and valued on close and deep live interaction with patients. If my guess is correct, as the pandemic hopefully abates and we return to livelier treatment, the rate of depression should also decline. Otherwise, further research is indicated, as well as formal treatment.

Doctor Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specializes in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the unique designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout professional, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. for a better world. He sits on the editorial board of Psychiatric timeMT.

Reference

1. Medscape Psychiatrist Lifestyle, Happiness and Burnout Report 2022. Medscape. February 18, 2022. Accessed February 24, 2022. https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2022-lifestyle-psychiatrist-6014788

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