A postal survey of doctors' attitudes to becoming mentally ill

Clin Med (Lond). 2009 Aug;9(4):327-32. doi: 10.7861/clinmedicine.9-4-327.


A postal survey of 3512 doctors in Birmingham was carried out to assess attitudes to becoming mentally ill. The response rate for the questionnaire was 70% (2462 questionnaires). In total, 1807 (73.4%) doctors would choose to disclose a mental illness to family and friends rather than to a professional. Career implications were cited by 800 (32.5%) respondents as the most frequent reason for failure to disclose. For outpatient treatment, 51.1% would seek formal professional advice. For inpatient treatment, 41.0% would choose a local private facility, with only 21.1% choosing a local NHS facility. Of respondents 12.4% indicated that they had experienced a mental illness. Stigma to mental health is prevalent among doctors. At present there are no clear guidelines for doctors to follow for mental healthcare. Confidential referral pathways to specialist psychiatric care for doctors and continuous education on the vulnerability of doctors to mental illness early on in medical training is crucial.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Physician Impairment / psychology*
  • Physician Impairment / statistics & numerical data
  • Pilot Projects
  • Postal Service
  • Prevalence
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Sick Role*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology