How Are You DO-ing?

A Conversation on Osteopathic Physician Mental Health and Well-being

Mental Health Awareness RibbonDepression is defined as persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in work or activities. In the medical profession, these feelings can be present in medical students, residents and practicing physicians. In a study recently conducted by the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents (COSGP) and the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA), nearly 40 percent of medical student respondents admitted to feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide.

According to a study conducted in 2005 surveying British physicians, 46.2 percent admit to at least one episode of depression, with 7 percent of respondents admitting to self-prescribing antidepressants. Self-prescribing activity is based on confidentiality worries and perceived ability to manage the depression on their own.1

Reported barriers to seeking mental health help include letting colleagues down (73.1 percent), confidentiality (53.4 percent), letting patients down (51.9 percent), and hindrance to career progression (15.7 percent). Depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse and substance abuse are prevalent in physicians who completed suicide.2 Actual numbers of physicians with mental health disorders may be greater than realized, as limited data is reported.3

In response to this need to address our own well-being, whether recognized or not, and that of our current and future colleagues, POMA is initiating an ongoing column titled “How Are You DO-ing?” It is an opportunity for anyone in the osteopathic family to contribute insight, reflections or strategies for improving the mental health and well-being of osteopathic physicians in Pennsylvania. 

Let’s start the conversation.

Pamela S.N. Goldman, DO
Co-Chair, POMA Mental Health Task Force


1. Adams EF, Lee AI, Pritchard CW, White RI: What stops us from healing the healers: a survey of help-seeking behaviour, stigmatisation and depression within the medical profession. Int J Soc Phychiatry 2010;56(4):359-370.


3. Gold KJ, Sen A, Schwenk TL: Details on suicide among US physicians: data from the National Violent Death Reporting System. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 2013;35(1):45-49.


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