Oct 1, 2020 11:11:16 AM | 5 Min Read

Finding Physician Communities in Times of Crisis

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Vitel Health
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Finding Physician Communities in Times of Crisis

Everyone needs support at one time or another, especially in times like now when uncertainty is high and we may be physically as well as emotionally distanced from each other. Pandemic or not, there are so many problems that are strictly more difficult to solve when you don't have a support system. Because we spend a majority of our waking life at work, many people find that their colleagues comprise a significant portion of their social support network. However for physicians, who often work set apart from their office and may also feel the burden of professional barriers, it can be hard to foster supportive relationships at work.

While certain overwhelming conditions may stem from a diagnosable mental health disorder and benefit from treatment by a licensed psychiatrist or therapist, many times the day to day struggles of life can be mitigated with the support of an empathetic peer community. Belonging to a community can mean the difference between being overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, and managing the pressures of work and daily life. Sometimes, simply being able to talk to other physicians can itself be a huge benefit for your mental health.

Breaking Our Silence

There is a well known problem in the healthcare community of physicians not speaking up about their own mental health. There are a variety of reasons that a physician may not feel comfortable seeking help for mental health issues including fear of job loss, fear of the implications on their ability to practice medicine, as well as the fear and shame they may feel by making their problems a burden to someone else. Physicians are unlikely to reach out to colleagues or friends in a time of crisis and for that the profession is paying the price, in loss of productive time due to burnout and loss of physician lives due to suicide and substance use.

These fears are very well founded in many cases as there are countless stories of physicians who have lost their livelihoods and/or licensing after seeking help for mental health issues, and we know that overall the healthcare system and regulatory system needs to change. But the real problem is that physicians don’t even feel comfortable reaching out to each other for help, and will suffer alone in silence, even if it is literally killing them.

In order to prevent further unnecessary loss of physician life it is important to help physicians create meaningful connections with people they can feel comfortable talking to, whether those people are friends, colleagues, coaches, mentors, or even psychiatrists. Doctors are people who work in extremely high stress jobs where stakes are always high, and with a pandemic thrown in, mental health has never been more precarious.

Difficulties of Going it Alone

For many people, work-related stress is something they can relate to their friends and family, but for physicians, the stressors can be quite unique. Unless you're married to another physician, being able to discuss problems in a meaningful way can end up being more frustrating than helpful, through no fault of your partner, spouse, or friends.

In particular, the situation that the COVID-19 pandemic forces us into adds layers of extra work and stress to an already high-stress working environment. Not having an adequate support system:

  • Is predictive of worse outcomes in relation to mental health disorders and how one copes with them
  • Increases rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other conditions that are often related to stress
  • Decreases overall quality of life

Finding a community to speak with on a regular basis can dramatically improve your life by helping you better handle stress related to your work as a physician.

Finding Support Communities

One major benefit of the internet is the ability to connect instantly with other people. Facebook alone has made connecting with peers extremely simple, and within the platform, there are hundreds of groups dedicated to helping with peace of mind during times of crisis. Though it's not perfect, there are communities there that can help.

Reddit is another place to find doctors who are also struggling with the stresses of the pandemic and other work-related crises. With multiple highly populated mental wellness and medical boards, you can find a community that can help support you.

Beyond these social media platforms, however, a quick Google search can lead you to committed communities for physician mental health concerns. These are places where doctor credentials are vetted and only physicians will be involved; your chances of encountering a disingenuous person are unlikely. These spaces provide a mental respite from daily stress and allow you to communicate with other people who understand your unique situation.

ViTel Can Help You Connect to Other Physicians

Telehealth services have an added benefit of connecting many different platforms, service providers, and industry professionals together. By increasing the ability to find and connect with other people in similar situations and with similar educational and work backgrounds, you no longer have to deal with a crisis alone.

ViTel has a network of physicians, practices and hospitals across the country. Connecting with professionals and peers to speak about counseling, medication, or simply how to deal with stress is easier than ever.

With the pandemic and the already stressful lives that medical professionals lead, there's little wonder that physician mental health is more important than ever. Do not wait—find a group online, through a telehealth platform or simply search on Google. Your mental health shouldn't be stigmatized, and your anxiety, depression, and stress are real. Getting help for them shouldn't be considered weakness but rather it should be a sign of strength.

Topics: From Our Physicians, Health & Wellness Tips

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