Doctors and Depression: Why Healing Yourself Doesn’t Always Work

Posted on November 8, 2010 by VITAL WorkLife

Updated March 4, 2021

Depression 8According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 20.9 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, experience some type of depression in any given year. It’s estimated that about 15 percent of the population will experience clinical depression at some point in their lives. Physicians aren’t immune—in fact, they’re at significantly higher risk.

The rate of suicide among physicians is 40% higher for male physicians and 140% higher for female physicians than among the general population. Part of the reason for those alarming statistics is that physicians are less apt than the general population to seek help when they’re first experiencing the types of stress, frustration and career dissatisfaction that can lead to depression.

“Most physicians take great pride in their ability to handle stress and are extremely reluctant to confide in their peers about any problems they’re experiencing,” said Dr. Alan Rosenstein, medical director for VITAL WorkLife “As a result, most doctors are unaware that many of their colleagues are just as frustrated, stressed out and unhappy as they are.”

Whether it’s a belief that they know just what to do but can’t find time to exercise, eat right and get enough sleep, or a fear that admitting a need for help reflects poorly on their competency, doctors are more reluctant than the general population to seek outside help. This bias leads many physicians to attempt to self-correct and self-medicate, which does little to address the underlying issues and can lead to substance abuse.

For many physicians, a first call for help is easier when they know that the person on the other end of the line is someone who has walked in their shoes and understands the demands of practicing medicine.

Healthier Practices and Happier Home Lives: Your Physician Well Being Resources Can Help

Physician Well Being Resources, offered to you by your employer through VITAL WorkLife, includes unlimited telephone consultation—available 24/7 by calling 877.731.3949. Your benefit also includes free, face-to-face counseling with master’s- and doctorate-level professionals—as well as physician peer coaches.

“Our goal is to help physicians achieve greater satisfaction in their careers and joy in their lives,” said Rosenstein. “We provide a confidential setting for them to get the help they need in a way that makes sense for them in their day-to-day life.”

Helpful Online Resources

In addition to telephone and face-to-face counseling. VITAL WorkLife provides extensive online resources. At our website, you’ll find hundreds of helpful articles and links to resources that can help you understand and get help for depression, including:

  • Depression:  Causes and Effects
  • Depression:  A Treatable Illness
  • Depression:  Detection and Treatment—Psychotherapy
  • Depression:  Detection and Treatment—Medication
  • Depression:  Finding Help
  • Depression in Men is Treatable
  • Depression—What Every Woman Should Know (Parts I, II & III)

How to Access these articles

  1. To find these articles, go to click on member login and enter your user name and password.
  2. In the shaded box on the left of the screen, click on the “Click Here to get to your Work & Life Resources” button.
  3. In the shaded area at the top of the screen, click on the pull down menu that says “Balancing” and pull down to “Mental Health.”
  4. In the Categories box on the right side of the Communication page, click on “Depression and Dysthymia,” then click “View All” in the articles section.

We Can Help

For members, access your Well Being Resources either through your VITAL WorkLife App or by calling 877.731.3949.

Not a Member? 

Contact us to learn more about our Physician Well Being Resources program and how it can enhance the well being of your physicians and providers!

Interested in learning more?

Contact Us


Tags in this post

All Entries

Get New Insights Delivered to Your Inbox