5 ways to combat depression among medical residents

Despite having to deal with the death of an uncle to pancreatic cancer and the deaths of patients under her care, Elisabeth Poorman, M.D., says that she kept on showing up to work during her residency program. But she was becoming increasingly depressed. It took her a year to find the mental health support she needed.

Poorman is far from alone. According to a 2013 Journal of the American Medical Association article, approximately 29 percent of residents are suffering from depression.

Thus, here are five ways to combat depression among medical residents:           

Mandatory debriefing sessions about mental health issues. Whether in group settings or one-on-one, residents need access to mental health professionals who aren’t directly involved in their residency program. This setting provides residents with a “safe space” to discuss their feelings of failure, writes Poorman, a Boston-area based primary-care doctor, in a WBUR Radio article.

Confidentiality and working hours outside the hospital. Medical residents in search of help need to have time outside the hospital to gain confidential access to mental health services, according to the article. For residents who don’t need the mental health support, they can use the time for self-care.

Communicating about shared experiences. Encourage residents to talk about their struggles with depression, writes Poorman, who also calls on medical school programs to be responsive to residents’ concerns about support for mental health services.

Screening for depression is essential. While screening residents for depression is valuable, many resident programs don’t have the right support infrastructure in place, as previously reported by FiercePracticeManagement.

Retreats and group sessions focused on wellness. Georgetown University Medical Center, for example, provides retreats and group sessions to help residents combat feelings of isolation and learn wellness practices.

- here's the WBUR Radio article
- read the JAMA article