May 1, 2024

May is Mental Health Month…how’s yours?

As you know, May is Mental Health Month. It’s a very important time to raise awareness about the prevalence of mental health issues facing many people today. Overwhelming events have continued to exacerbate mental health issues and concerns over the last couple of post-pandemic years, affecting millions of people with feelings of stress, isolation, loneliness, uncertainty, hopelessness, and anxiety. As a medical professional, you no doubt understand first-hand the effects of mental illness on your patients.

You also understand the very real impact our profession can have on your mental health. It’s true at all times but especially this month, it’s incredibly important to take regular pauses to check in with yourself about your own mental health and well-being, as well as your physical health. While the stigma around discussing mental health has decreased some, it can still be difficult to know where to turn, especially as medical professionals.

So, how are you doing?

It’s an important question. One you should ask yourself and your colleagues often. And it’s important to be honest with yourself about the answer. Burnout in the medical field is extremely common. Even before COVID-19, healthcare workers were already under incredible pressure. According to an October 2019 report from the National Academy of Medicine, between 35 and 54 percent of nurses and doctors were experiencing burnout. Among medical students and residents, that percentage was as high as 60 percent. There are many negative impacts of burnout – it can lead to symptoms of substance abuse, depression, and even suicide. In fact, the suicide rate among physicians is more than double that of the general population.1

If you’re struggling with your mental health, there are resources available locally. The Rhode Island Medical Society’s (RIMS) Physician Health Program (RIPHP) is a confidential resource for physicians, PAs, dentists, and podiatrists in Rhode Island who might benefit from assistance with physical or mental health concerns that could be affecting them personally or professionally. If you are experiencing any of the warning signs outlined on their page, or know a colleague who is, please contact RIMS today. They also have several resources to address wellness and burnout, as well several wellness resources for healthcare professionals, including recovery and mental health resources and suicide prevention resources.

You can also take advantage of the resources available through your EAP if your employer has one, and/or talk to someone in your HR department. And if you are a BCBSRI member, you also have access to a wide variety of mental health resources through your health plan.

I can’t stress it enough – be sure to take care of yourself so you can take better care of your patients. As always, thank you for your partnership and all you do to help our members stay safe and healthy.

1Psychology Today – We Need to Prioritize Mental Health for Healthcare Workers