Increasing numbers of young, female doctors are seeking help for mental health and addiction problems, according to the medical director of a confidential treatment service.
GP Clare Gerada (pictured right) runs the PHP (Practitioner Health Programme), a confidential service providing treatment to London-based doctors and dentists with mental health or addiction problems.
Dr Gerada told delegates at this week’s ICPH (International Conference on Physician Health) that, in the five years the PHP had been running, the biggest change she had witnessed related to the number of younger women doctors seeking help.
In 2008/09 there were 27 men and 21 women in the 25-to-35 age group seeking help — one quarter of all doctors using the PHP. In 2012/13, there were 31 men and 101 women and they made up half of those using the PHP.
Dr Gerada said that the peak age for women entering the PHP was 29 to 30 years old.
She said there were several reasons that could be behind this rise in younger female doctors needing treatment for mental health or addiction issues.
She explained: ‘This is a worrying age as well for men, but [these ages] are difficult for women as most of their non-medical cohort are further along the track being in control of their career.’
Dr Gerada said that the training process meant juniors did not always know where they were being sent for their placements which complicated basic needs, such as signing tenancy agreements on flats.
‘The last thing we have at the moment is stability,’ Dr Gerada said, adding that the NHS environment was increasingly being described as ‘toxic and barbaric’ and a more negative culture had emerged in recent years.
In a BMJ article earlier this year, she wrote: ‘It may be that women entering their fourth decades wonder whether they are achieving goals they set themselves before entering medical school.
‘After caring for their patients during the day, female doctors who have family responsibilities have the additional demands of caring for their families in the evening and at night.’
Dr Gerada told the conference that although the PHP had high success rates for treating those with mental health issues and alcohol or substance misuse, a massive increase in eating disorders was proving much harder to deal with.
The ICPH is organised by the BMA, American Medical Association and Canadian Medical Association. It is being held in London this year.
Find out more about the PHP
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