Review of literature on the mental health of doctors: are specialist services needed?

J Ment Health. 2011 Apr;20(2):146-56. doi: 10.3109/09638237.2010.541300. Epub 2011 Jan 28.


Background: Mental ill health is common among doctors. Fast, efficient diagnosis and treatment are needed as mentally ill doctors pose a safety risk to the public, yet they are often reluctant to seek help.

Aims: To review literature regarding risk factors and potential barriers to help-seeking unique to doctors; to consider the success of interventions by specialist services for doctors.

Method: Key phrases regarding the 'mental health of doctors' were entered into internet searches and journal databases to identify relevant research. When key authors were identified, author-specific searches were carried out.

Findings: There are contradictory reports about the prevalence of mental ill health in doctors but it is generally agreed that doctors face a large number of risk factors, both occupational and individual; and help-seeking is difficult due to complexities surrounding a doctor becoming a patient. Specialist services developed specifically for interventions for doctors with mental health problems tend to show promising results but further research is needed.

Conclusions: The unique and complex situation of a doctor becoming a patient benefits from specialist services; such services should focus on early intervention and raising awareness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / rehabilitation*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / trends*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Specialization*