A talented young doctor at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research committed suicide in February this year. In phone calls made to his parents before he took his life, Dr. Krishnaprasath Ramasamy had said he was depressed due to the workload and in addition to that, he was unable to understand Hindi as he was from south India.
No one could understand the 24-year-old man’s agony, but a report released recently by the PGIMER psychiatry department should be enough to alert the hospital authorities to a worrying problem: That 90% of resident doctors, mainly juniors, of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) are stressed out. About 86% have not sought psychiatric help and 57% feel there’s a stigma attached to mental health problems.
Ninety percent of the doctors are moderately or severely stressed, which means their routines are affected and they are finding it difficult to cope with life. Ten percent are ‘overwhelmingly’ stressed.
The study on ‘Perceived stress and barriers to seeking help among residents doctors in PGIMER, Chandigarh,’ was conducted by the hospital’s psychiatry department.
Just 60 doctors (13%) have sought psychiatric help with nearly 86% replying in the negative when asked if they have been counseled. The reason, 57% feel, is the stigma attached to asking for help and 61% say they fear being labeled as weak.
“The study involves a majority of junior residents as they are under rigorous training, have a lot of academic pressure and clinical workload as well. This high-level stress is impacting their physical and mental health. Strangely, a majority of them feel there’s a stigma attached to asking for help,” says Dr. Sandeep Grover, principal investigator of the study, and a professor at the psychiatry department.
The survey has 442 respondents, including 76% junior residents and 24% senior residents.
When asked about the level of stress they experienced at work, 80% residents say they are moderately or severely stressed, with 10% complaining of overwhelming stress levels.
Numerous factors act as triggers, with 67% affected by long working hours, 53% (each) by lack of recognition at work and no leave. About 48% were stressed because of their inability to avail leaves and being blamed for mistakes they had not made or for minor mistakes, the study has found.
The antagonistic effect of stress on physical and mental health on over 70% docs. Seventy-five percent resident doctors reply in the affirmative when asked if stress has adversely affected their physical health and 80% say their mental health is negatively impacted.
“We need to understand why this is happening and change certain things which are not good in our work culture,” Grover adds.
Twenty-five percent doctors have started taking or increased the intake of alcohol, cannabis, and opioids. They are also taking up smoking or smoke more cigarettes. Talking to HT, one of the resident doctors says “I do not get a day off but once in a while I get a week over (not work for one shift). During that time I drink a lot to forget stress.”