Mental health and stigma in the medical profession

Health (London). 2012 Jan;16(1):3-18. doi: 10.1177/1363459310371080. Epub 2010 Dec 22.


Until recently, much of the recent upsurge in interest in physician health has been motivated by concerns about improving patient care and patient safety and reducing medical errors. Increasingly, more attention has turned to examining how the management of mental illness among physicians might be improved within the medical profession and one key direction for change is the reduction of stigma associated with mental illness. I begin this article by presenting a brief overview of the stigma process from the general sociological literature. Next, I provide evidence that illustrates how the stigma of mental illness thrives in the medical profession as a result of the culture of medicine and medical training, perceptions of physicians and their colleagues, and expectations and responses of health care systems and organizations. Lastly, I discuss what needs to change by proposing ways of educating and raising awareness regarding mental illness among physicians, discussing approaches to assessing and identifying mental health concerns for physicians and by examining how safe and confidential support and treatment can be offered to physicians in need. I rely on strategically selected studies to effectively draw attention to and support the central themes of this article.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Mental Health*
  • Organizational Culture
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Social Support
  • Stereotyping*