Emergency physicians reluctant to seek mental health help; cite stigma, job security

Many emergency physicians on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic are hesitant to seek mental health treatment, according to a new poll from the American College of Emergency Physicians and Morning Consult.

The poll — conducted in October among a national sample of 862 emergency physicians — found 87 percent of respondents report feeling more stress since the pandemic began, and 72 percent report experiencing more burnout at work.

Regarding stress and burnout factors, 83 percent of respondents cite concerns about family or friends contracting the coronavirus, and 80 percent cite concerns about their personal health and safety around becoming infected, according to the poll. Additionally, 65 percent of respondents cite concerns for their job, financial security, and 60 percent cite lack of personal protective equipment.

Despite these concerns, the poll found 45 percent of respondents are not comfortable seeking mental health treatment. Seventy-three percent said they feel there is stigma at work, and 57 percent said they would be concerned for their job if they sought mental health treatment. Amid these concerns, 27 percent of respondents have avoided seeking mental health treatment, according to the poll.

"This new data adds real urgency to the need for emergency physicians, policymakers and clinical leaders to work together to change our approach to mental health," Mark Rosenberg, DO, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, concluded in an Oct. 26 news release. "Every healthcare professional, especially those on the front lines of the pandemic, should be able to address their mental health without fear of judgement or consequences." 


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