Presented by Christine Yu Moutier, MD
Chief Medical Officer, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University
In this session presented by AFSP Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christine Moutier, participants will first learn about physician mental health and suicide prevention. Most mental health problems can be effectively managed, but real and perceived barriers, such as confidentiality concerns and fear of negative ramifications on one’s reputation, licensure, or hospital privileging keep many physicians from addressing their mental health needs. For medical students and physicians in training, others concerns such as cost, lack of time, and fear of a potential negative impact on progression and residency match may keep trainees from seeking support. Unattended distress has ramifications for physicians as well as the healthcare industry and patient safety. A number of factors contribute: in addition to individual risk factors and stress load, institutional culture plays a critical role leading physicians to rationalize distress as part of their professional identity. There are several initiatives with demonstrated effectiveness in medical settings which can be scaled up for greatest impact: education and stigma reduction efforts, policies and procedures that treat mental health on par with physical health, and efforts that promote an overarching culture of respect. Further strides can be made by addressing hospital and state licensing forms’ questions related to mental health – ensuring that questions pertain to competence rather than illness – or replacing questions altogether with a statement encouraging proactive actions to protect physician mental health and safe practice.