María Dolores Braquehais Conesa, M.D., Ph.D., Leo Sher, M.D.
November 6, 2009. Although at this point it is not clear why an Army psychiatrist at Fort Hood Army post killed and injured many fellow servicemen (1), the recent event may be related to mental health problems. This incident reminds us about the importance of protecting mental health of physicians.
The paradox that medical professionals do not look after their own health in the same way as they do with their patients is well known, especially when suffering from mental health conditions and/ or addictive behaviors (2).
The most characteristic reaction among medical professionals is denying or minimizing their health problems or frequently, hiding them, as if having a health problem were a weakness, a trait of vulnerability unable for them to accept. When it comes to mental health conditions, hiding is even more common. Physicians, including psychiatrists, may suffer from psychiatric disorders such as affective, anxiety, psychotic, personality disorders and/or substance abuse (2).
More attention should be given to those who care for our health. It is crucial to destigmatize mental illness among the general population, including medical professionals.
- Mc Fadden, R.D., Healy, J. Suspect was to be sent to Afghanistan. The New York Times.
- Rohlfs, I., Arrizabalaga, P., Artazcoz, L., Borrell, C., Fuentes, M., Valls, C. Health, lifestyles and working conditions of male and female doctors in Catalonia. Health, gender and professional practise. Fundación Galatea. Barcelona, 2007.