Our fallen peers: a mandate for change

Acad Psychiatry. 2008 Jan-Feb;32(1):8-12. doi: 10.1176/appi.ap.32.1.8.


Objective: The author identifies and seeks to remove barriers contributing to physician/medical students' decisions NOT to seek mental health care.

Methods: Following a cluster of medical student and physician suicides in one medical community, medical trainees anonymously shared their views regarding seeking mental health treatment in light of the current disclosure requirements for medical licensure. In an effort to identify medical licensure questions that more accurately assess for potential impairment--replacing the stigmatizing global inquiry about past mental health treatment--47 states' medical licensure questions available on the web were examined. Representatives from the state's psychiatric and medical societies joined efforts to formally request the State Medical Board to revise the licensure questions.

Results: The State Medical Board unanimously approved the recommended changes.

Conclusion: Overcoming stigma within the medical profession regarding seeking psychiatric care is a difficult process requiring ongoing education of our colleagues. Physicians must have the opportunity to seek confidential mental health treatment at their earliest signs of distress in order to maximize their optimal functioning in an effort to prevent impairment.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Licensure
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Physicians*
  • Prejudice
  • Self Medication
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Students, Medical*
  • Truth Disclosure*