Docs Let's Talk
Yesterday here in Canada it was Bell Let's Talk Day - an initiative to raise awareness around mental health and to work towards a stigma-free Canada. Bell is a phone, internet, and TV service provider, so yesterday they used their platform to donate 5 cents towards the cause for things like text messages, watching their video featuring public figures and celebrities talking about mental health, and social media posts using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. This has become a successful, yearly initiative citing that more than 87% of Canadians are more aware of mental illness through this campaign.
So docs, let's talk.
Awareness seems to be growing around the prevailing presence of stigma in the medical culture and the high rate of mental illness among physicians and medical trainees. It appears that we're discussing it more and globally physician well-being is becoming a priority among medical organizations. However, very interestingly, the urgency of addressing mental illness among physicians is far from new. Even dating back to January 1989, the British Medical Journal published an article titled Mental Illness in Doctors citing higher rates of mental illness and suicide than the general population. The authors go on to say, “An overall change in attitude is needed so that the stigma may be removed from mentally ill doctors”. I don't know about you but our jaws nearly dropped when we read it. 30 years ago. It's hard to not shudder and feel a bit of despair - have we made any substantial changes?
We like to think that overall, the medical profession and even the general public, are more aware of the magnitude of mental illness and stigma due to our pervasive digital connectivity. Thirty years ago you likely wouldn't have come across that article.
Speaking of articles, one that appeared in the CMAJ Blogs this week by Dr. Sarah Tulk, Physician Mental Health: Why We Need to Share Our Stories of Struggle and Success, urges physicians to come forward to share their personal stories with mental illness. "We need to break the silence that fuels stigma and propagates mental illness as something shameful to be buried," she says. We completely agree. Shame is the most corrosive force behind most of these issues.
We believe we're seeing more and more physicians, residents, and students coming forward and sharing their stories. As long as they're ready, and in a safe place psychologically to share, we're listening.
"Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It's the fear that we're not good enough." ~ Brene Brown