Background: Doctors are poor at help-seeking, particularly for mental ill health; attitudes of colleagues reflecting stigmatisation may be important factors influencing decisions to seek support.
Aims: This article focuses on doctors' attitudes to depression rather than mental illness in general. It seeks to determine the extent to which doctors perceive depression is stigmatised within the medical profession and whether the level of perceived stigma affects patterns of help-seeking behaviour.
Method: : A postal survey was sent to 1488 General Practitioners and 152 psychiatrists in Devon and Cornwall. Questions assessed stigmatising attitudes to depression; help-seeking behaviour and barriers to help-seeking. Prevalence of self-reported depression and time off work was measured.
Results: The response rate was 76.6%. Doctors perceived that many of their profession hold stigmatising views of depression. Some 46.2% of respondents reported that they had suffered an episode of depression. Help-seeking was significantly reduced in those with a history of depression. Barriers to help-seeking were reported as letting colleagues down (73.1%), confidentiality (53.4%), letting patients down (51.9%) and career progression (15.7%). Gender and a history of depression significantly affected help-seeking behaviour and perceived stigmatisation. Higher levels of perceived stigma increased concerns about help-seeking and reduced help-seeking from own GP or colleagues.
Conclusion: Stigma associated with depression in doctors is endemic in the medical profession and the level of perceived stigma is related to reduced help-seeking behaviour. Efforts need to be made by the profession to reduce the stigma anticipated by those who become depressed, to enable appropriate help-seeking and support.