Health

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Doctors under pressure advised to stop trying to be 'Superman'

Doctors and other health professionals who are suffering mental health difficulties have been urged to stop trying to be Superman.

Thirteen healthcare professionals, including doctors, took their own lives between September 2008 and February 2012.

The tragedies, which only relate to Cork and do not indicate the national scale of the problem, were revealed by the National Suicide Research Foundation.

They illustrate some of the hidden mental health pressures which doctors and others caring for patients may be enduring.

Prof Jim Lucey, medical director of St Patrick's Hospital in Dublin, who recently addressed a doctors' health conference, said medics who were under stress might fear they'd lose their "aura of invincibility" if they asked for help.

The level of expectation on doctors tended to be one that at times was "unsustainable", he told the 'Irish Medical Times'.

"You have this sense that the doctor is allied to Superman; the doctor must be an icon of enormous capacity and able in any circumstances to do whatever is necessary."

"We have to deal with our healing needs . . . we can't be wounded and still practise – it does not facilitate our practice," he added.

"They are isolated by the position and iconography around medicine. But they are also isolated by their own fears and society's assumption in many ways that the doctor is able to take whatever: you are trained, you can take this; you are well paid, you can take this; you are the doctor, you can take this.

"Doctors contribute to this themselves: I got 600 points in my Leaving, I can take this, which is nonsense, absolute nonsense.

"There is a whole cultural change that needs to happen. I am not proposing to have answers to this, but in acknowledging it, you get a situation where the truth sets us all free."

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