Getting support when you need it is a critical part of mitigating the effects of stress and developing well-being.
Example reasons an individual might seek help:
- Learning to develop new coping skills
- Improving the ability to tolerate difficult emotions, such as intense guilt, sadness, or anxiety
- Getting help with the mourning of a loss
What might prevent healthcare professionals from obtaining needed support?
Health care professionals may have concerns about communicating with a provider knowing they may get a diagnosis and that diagnosis might later affect their employment or licensing. Even communicating with someone within an organization informally may seem risky due to uncertainty about the protection of that conversation. Consider these impediments to getting help described by the AMA (Berg, 2020):
- Professional licensure at the state level often involves answering questions about physical and mental health status, which can result in physicians not seeking treatment for treatable illness.
- Professional liability insurance also requires disclosure of mental health concerns, which is another barrier to seeking appropriate treatment.
Countering common misconceptions about mental health care (Mt. Sinai, 2020):
- Getting help is being responsible and healthy. You may develop a positive coping skill and benefit not only yourself but also those you work with and the organization.
- You do not have to be mentally ill or even wait until you are suffering a lot to get help.
- Most insurance covers mental health with copays ranging from 0 to $30. You may also find a professional who uses a sliding scale.
- If you are concerned about time, consider that if you are feeling better, you may become more efficient in dealing with difficult matters. Getting focused, limited care of just a few sessions is sometimes sufficient.
- Mental health professionals are not allowed to reveal anything about your care to your employer, and your employer should not have access to mental health notes in your record.
- Even highly independent, capable people sometimes benefit from getting help from others. Think of it as adding skills rather than giving up control.
For medical students: Rising 4th-year medical students in our focus group recommended taking advantage of existing systems of support in the schools. Nearly all medical schools have a support system for students, including some form of counseling and some sort of peer support, such as pairing senior students with new students or groups of students meeting with an attending physician to discuss issues for which they need support. Medical schools typically have counseling available to help students who are struggling and are prepared to help those who need more formal mental health support
Resources: See Lift’s Resources section for resources on mental health and finding help.
Additional Reading: (External Resources)
- My First Therapy Session. Commentary by one medical student who sought help through mental health counseling.
- Effect of getting mental health treatment AMA resource
- New policies target mental health stigma in physicians, students AMA resource
Related Lift blog: Why Peer Support?
Berg S. The 12 factors that drive up physician burnout. American Medical Assoc. 2020.
Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Common Misconceptions about Mental Health Care – Resource from Mt. Sinai Medical Center, NY., written to encourage healthcare professionals to seek mental health care when appropriate. 2020