With a 2009 study arguing that questions on mental health actually violate the Americans with Disability Act, as well as the surge in physician burnout and suicide, groups like the American Medical Association are urging state boards to focus mental health questions to only current impairment.
If you are in a state with more aggressive questions about mental health, you may be reluctant to see a psychologist using your insurance, and perhaps it makes sense to seek care in an anonymous fashion. Some doctors report doing this by seeking help in another town from where they live, using a pseudonym or paying cash to avoid a paper trail.
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Fortunately, there may be another option. Some county medical societies are now offering physician wellness programs that pair doctors with local psychologists to provide strictly confidential care. The Lane County Medical Society in Oregon was the first county medical society to create a physician wellness program in 2012. Its goal is to help physicians “find the balance between the demands of their work and personal lives,” and many other counties are following their lead, usually paying for a certain number of visits as a member benefit.
The common denominator of these programs is that they ensure complete confidentiality so that physicians don’t feel anxious about any type of stigma or adverse consequence to seeking help for mental stress.
Check to see if your local medical society offers a physician wellness program, and if not, consider asking them to start one. Regardless of how you choose to get help, please remember that if you made it through college, through medical school, through residency—you are intelligent, you are hardworking, and you ARE resilient! But you are not perfect, and the stress that we face as physicians does take a toll on our psyche. Psychology can help.