Healers, heal thyself

Depression — the word today rings alarm bells in the minds of people. Do we really know what depression is? Do we talk about it enough for everyone to know? We don’t! That’s because it’s a condition related to mental health and not physical, and in the current society that we live in, forget depression, speaking about even a minor psychological problem isastigma. While several celebrities have recently spoken about their battle with depression, there is still a long way to go to remove the taboo. One major section among us, whom we seldom think about but are battling with depression are doctors — the same people to whom we run when we have an illness. They are the silent victims of depression as they have no option but to heal themselves.

High expectations Being a physician is never an easy job, no matter how cool it might look, and it is muchmore complicated than it seems. The expectation is always set very high for doctors. Their achievements and success puts them under tremendous pressure. The doctors cannot overlook even a minor glitch in their day-today work as that can certainly result in loss of trust among patients. A sense of insecurity and low confidence starts creeping into their minds as they have never faced failure in their life. There is peer pressure,workpressure, pressure from patients and so on. There isavery fine line between sanity and insanity. But in the case of doctors it is very hard to recognise this.Also, who would suggest medication to the doctors themselves? Which doctor will accept that they have depression? This is the problem we see today. There are different stages ofdepression. Many incidents in a doctor’s professional life can strike the first chord of depression — be it the death of a patient, or finding a way for the surgery inadifficult case etc. There is a certain finite period when that happens and then they get over it as that is nature’s way of recouping. If someone says that they are feeling low, nobody takes it seriously, butif you say that you are depressed, people understand that you have a pathologicalproblem.So, itis a questionofdegree;until you reach the last stage of depression people do not generally notice.

Handling pressure Also, how you handle pressure has a lot to do with depression.Ajunior doctor’s threshold will be different from a senior doctor’s and certainly their background also matters. But there certainly are ways to deal with such situations. The first step is to decriminalise doctors, as itis through thisprofessionthattheymeet their livelihood, too. Secondly, it is to see that here is a Plan B in the institution where the doctor is working. Job security is a confidence booster that a doctor needs like any other professional. For example, ifthere is a mishap and he is unable to work, he shouldn’t be sacked immediately. One needs to find out the real reason and ensure that adequate steps are taken which will certainlymakehim perform better. In every healthcare institution, each quarter during the appraisal, there should be a counselling session for doctors including the senior ones. It is highly beneficial if a doctor speaks to his or her colleague during these sessions as they would understand each other better. Doctors must also feel that they have someone to talk to or share their problems with. They should try and understand the reason behind the low performance of a good doctor and address their needs. The early signs of depression can be caught if hospitals have quarterly appraisal sessions. The appraisal must happen not just fromafinancial aspect but also from a psychological perspective. Some amount of extracurricular activities likeaday out with colleagues to have fun will also break quiteafew barriers and helps the peers to communicate with each other. There is always a competition between the doctors in hospital and if they promote each other, they will be in a much better position. One needs to humanise doctors, and understand they are just like anybody else. (The writer is Medical Director of Milann, The Fertility Centre)