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Services sees more doctors seeking help for mental health and addiction issues

More doctors, dentists and pharmacists are seeking help for mental health and addiction problems.

A confidential service for medical practitioners said there has been a 53% increase in medical professionals looking for support.

The Practitioner Health Matters Programme - which is open to doctors, dentists and pharmacists - says it helped 48 professionals last year.

Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors, Consultants and GPs made up 75% of the referrals.

Most presented with mental health problems- in particular depression, anxiety, stress and burnout.

It said there was also a noticeable rise in the number of pharmacists availing of the service for abuse of prescription drugs.

It found that those in the medical profession are very slow to come forward with health or addiction issues due to shame, stigma or fears of reputational damage.

Dr Íde Delargy, the Clinical Lead for the PHMP, said that more than 80% of those referred are back working safely again, and the substantial increase in overall numbers last year showed that awareness of the programme is growing.

Dr Delargy said: "Practitioners often resort to self-managing and self-medicating their problems which in turn results in them presenting late and often in crisis when their problems are worse.

“While young hospital doctors continue to be overrepresented I think it’s significant that nine consultants registered for the service. In addition, nine pharmacists presented with addiction issues.

"Clearly, accessibility to prescription medication is a key issue there."

Dr Delargy also pointed out that more women are presenting with issues and said it is a concern that many are presenting at a young age, close to qualification.

She said: "They are often thrown in at the deep end and expected to get on with it, but clearly many find it difficult to navigate through what are often life or death situations.

"As a result, many suffer from depression, burnout and some even with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"This would indicate that the pressures of the job may need to be more clearly demonstrated to graduate doctors during training.”