Along with COVID-19, healthcare sector deals with another crisis: Doctors’ suicides

Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  In the middle of an unprecedented public health crisis, the healthcare landscape seems to be facing yet another catastrophe — several doctors choosing to end their lives.

Over the last two months, at least 11 suicides by doctors have been reported, the latest being the case of a government doctor, Nagendra SR in Mysuru, Karnataka who ended his life reportedly due to harassment by fellow doctors.

A taluk health officer in Nanjangud tehsil, Dr Nagendra was on Covid-19 duty and reports suggest he was under immense pressure.

The aftermath of the unfortunate incident has brought to light a largely underreported and highly problematic issue of high rates of suicides by doctors in the country.

Though no recent central database on suicide figures by doctors is available, experts point out that there is a growing evidence of increased prevalence of psychological problems such as stress, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse and feelings of burnout among medical professionals.

A study by the PGMIER, Chandigarh had shown in 2018 that over 30% of 445 doctors surveyed had depression and 16.7% reported suicidal ideations.

More than 90% of the participants reported some level of burnout and compared to faculty, a higher proportion of the residents reported stress, depression, and burnout.

“ suggests that a significantly higher proportion of doctors in Indian settings experience stress, depression, and burnout,” noted the authors.  

“The presence of stress, depression, and burnout is associated with long working hours and negative patient-related outcomes, adverse doctor–patient interactions, and interpersonal interactions among the colleagues.” Dr Soumitra Pathare, director of the Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy, Pune said, “It may also be a spurious increase — what I mean is that doctors have always had one of the highest suicide rates amongst the population in almost all countries. What you may be seeing recently is a reporting increase of such incidents.”

Dr Nand Kumar, a psychiatrist with AIIMS, Delhi said, “Social distancing that has become a norm appears to have precipitated a mental health crisis.”

“Medical professionals are most affected as while they have to work mandatorily has deprived them from major support system that could be therapeutic and it might have led to feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness leading to suicide,” he said.

(If you are having suicidal thoughts, or are worried about a friend or need emotional support, someone is always there to listen. Call AASRA’s 24×7 Helpline: +91-9820466726 for assistance.)

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