Physicians: Focus On Yourself, Not Just Your Patients


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In this Spotlight guest blog, Focus Mental Wellness, a virtual therapy platform, highlights the mental health issues impacting physicians. Thank you to Julie Sabine, CSO at Focus Mental Wellness, for this contribution.

“Promoting the health and well-being of healthcare providers will make our healthcare system more efficient.”

– Dr. Gigi Osler, Canadian Medical Association

Medical doctors are an especially vulnerable population when it comes to anxiety, depression and suicide. According to a recent Canadian Medical Association (CMA) survey, one in three physicians experience signs of depression. This may be surprising to most people. However, doctors are more than aware of the heavy demands of the job paired with unpleasant patient needs and outcomes. All of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Physicians are too familiar with burnout, a condition caused by excess stress and lack of resources. They endure long, gruelling hours, excessive administration, high expectations, and they are too often left feeling undervalued. Unsurprisingly, this leads to exhaustion, reduced productivity, helplessness, and resentment, leaving many doctors feeling like they have nothing more to give.

Physicians are like anyone else – they are human, and, like all humans, they struggle. The problem is that they are struggling too much, which has a negative impact on their practice. When mental health issues arise, our daily functioning is impaired and the way we feel, think and behave are compromised. This is why physicians need to put their oxygen masks on first, so to speak. And yet they are often untreated or inadequately treated for mental health issues.

Breaking the Stigma

“When you’re the person who is supposed to be saving people, it can be really hard to admit you’re struggling.”

– Jake Goodman, Resident Physician

In Canada, we have come a long way regarding breaking the stigma around mental health. Thanks to initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk and younger generations opening up about their struggles, mental health problems have become more normalized. Yet, despite the alarming data about mental health issues in the medical industry, stigma is still common among physicians. 

There is little room for error in the field of medicine. Mistakes can cause dire consequences, and physicians tend to be perfectionists who need to feel in control and have very high expectations of themselves. Culturally, these unattainable expectations extend to the community, patients and other practitioners. Having a mental health issue is sometimes seen as a failure or a weakness to a doctor. That is a big reason why doctors are prone to hiding their struggles, which makes the problem worse.

The first step to reducing mental health issues among doctors is to break the stigma, which is exactly what Jake Goodman aimed to do last December. The physician and psychiatry resident posted about his struggles all over social media in hopes of challenging the mental health taboo in the industry and helping others in his position do the same. In one of his posts, Dr. Goodman points out that “a cardiologist who takes medication for high blood pressure doesn’t have any worse understanding of the cardiovascular system than one who isn’t. Doctors are human beings, too.” 

Physicians Need Support Too

The first place we go when we’re in pain, physically or mentally, is our doctor. They treat that pain as best they can and point us in the right direction when we need further support. When we’re struggling with our mental health, they encourage us to get therapy. Physicians deserve the same support they give to their patients. 

“Mental health is a spectrum, and most, if not all of us, go through various struggles as we navigate the challenges of life. How we cope really depends on what resources we have in place.”

– Dr. Nithya Ramani, WELL Health

When our mental health is impaired, we need a therapist to support us by listening, empathizing and helping us become aware of our strengths and weaknesses, teaching us how to cope with stress, grief and the many difficulties life puts upon us. Ultimately, therapy helps us find meaning in life, which leads to happiness and peace.

Focus Mental Wellness provides confidential virtual therapy, not just for your patients but also for you. You can easily access virtual therapy via phone, video, or text at a time and place that fits your busy schedule. We have a diverse network of therapists for you to choose from. Just know that we have your back and that you’re not alone.

To learn more about how virtual therapy can benefit both you and your patients, visit the Focus Mental Wellness profile on

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