New federal law addresses stigma preventing health professionals from getting mental health help
SAN ANTONIO – – Health professionals have one goal: to help the patient. Often times this includes looking after their patient’s mental health, but what about taking care of themselves and their own mental health?
A range of suppliers admit this, it is rare.
Burnout and stress are known to be rampant in the medical field.
“I think almost all of the doctors have at least been linked to someone they lost to suicide,” said Jennifer Gemmill, medical director of the emergency department at the Methodist Hospital.
Research shows that a doctor commits suicide every day in the United States, resulting in the highest suicide rate of any profession. The number of physician suicides 28 to 40 per 100,000 is more than double that of the general population.
A study in Missouri, 20% of medical residents met criteria for depression, while 74% met criteria for burnout.
This has only been exacerbated over the past year by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has often pushed medical workers to their breaking points.
“The pandemic hasn’t really given us time to breathe,” said Mary Ann Lozano, a medical-surgical technician at the university hospital.
Lozano is open to her own sanity.
âI myself was diagnosed with PTSD following an abusive marriage. I got over my PTSD to some extent, but that doesn’t mean I’m cured, âshe said.
She also said that doesn’t mean she’s worse at her job.
âI love my job and it relaxes me sometimes. I like to care for my patients. It’s something that is therapeutic for me. But there are some situations that are really overwhelming, âsaid Lozano.
Dr Gemmill knows that working in the emergency room every day is overwhelming.
âSometimes the things I see at work if I’m having a particularly bad day, or during COVID when we saw a higher frequency of patients dying in the ER and having nothing to do to save them, those situations would come back to life. home with me, âGemmill said.
Both women admit that mental health issues are common, but most of their co-workers never get help.
âThe fear of being seen as weak or the fear of being seen as incapable of doing the job you were trained to do, and I am convinced that in most cases that is absolutely not true, but this âIt’s overcoming that perception that’s a huge hurdle,â Gemmill said.
This fact, recognized this spring when Dr. Lorna Breen’s Federal Health Care Provider Protection Act was passed, which:
– authorizes the funding of training and mental health services for health professionals
– supports education campaigns to encourage healthier working conditions
– calls for research on the causes and impact of physician burnout
âI am so supportive of this bill. But it’s going to be a long process because it’s stigmatizing. If you say you’re depressed, people think you can’t handle this job, and that’s not true, âLozano said.
Gemmill hopes the bill will bring about a complete culture change nationwide, from the top of the industry to the bottom.
âIt allows the administration and those who supervise physicians to really take a look at the environment and see how medicine has changed over the past 10 to 15 years. So many things that patients never see that we are subjected to that we are evaluated on that is a big part of the concept of wellbeing at work, âsaid Gemmill.
Many hospital systems and physician groups are already taking steps to improve the environment for their workers.
Gemmill is among the Greater San Antonio Emergency Doctors, a group of doctors who she says provide immense support to each other. She said she had personally used and welcomed this support before.
Lozano mentioned the university hospital’s quiet or recharging rooms, which allow employees to decompress, debrief, or seek out multiple types of therapy during a difficult day.
The university health system has also adopted a trauma-informed care plan internally to âbuild this culture change from the inside to the outsideâ. Its goal is to create safe spaces where employees can open up about how they have been affected, their experiences and their triggers. It encourages employees to share the emotional tensions of their work and invites them to discuss strategies for dealing with the challenges that arise.
Gemmill and Lozano both want their colleagues to know that struggling with mental health doesn’t make them worse providers.
âIt makes you human. We are all human. We are not made of stone. We are made of flesh and blood, feelings and emotions, and we are affected, âsaid Lozano.
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