Stress As An Epidemic in the 21st Century: The Mental Health of Medical Professionals

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Stress as an epidemic in the 21st Century – The Mental Health of Medical Professionals

This paper considers stress as an epidemic in contemporary society in light of the mental health of medical practitioners. Stress, will be defined in terms of the symptoms and characteristics of three types of stress, that of acute, episodic acute and chronic stress. Intrapersonal effects and impacts on the families of practitioners of long term work related anxiety is considered while statistics from studies on the incidence of stress related suicide of doctors is discussed. Other factors such as internal and external influences are reviewed while a link between empathy and compassion fatigue is considered. Prevention of stress related illness, rather than cure is considered with regards to primary and secondary prevention. It is proposed that a connection lies between the high rates of chronic stress induced emotional illness amongst medical practitioners, and the professional role and responsibility to community felt by physicians.

To consider stress as an epidemic in contemporary society, one must understand what stress is, how it is caused, and how it manifests itself in the quality of lives. Early recognition of stress came by way of a young medical student known as Hans Selye, who observed identical emotional symptoms and signs in patients, although they suffered from differing physical conditions (Rosch, n.d.). Rosch (n.d.) explains that it was investigation of this appearance of ‘general sickness’ that led Selye to develop the theory that chronic stress causes long-term chemical changes in the body, thus identifying stress as a major cause of disease. Stress, usually considered to be a negative feeling, is the body’s reaction to per...

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...This paper commenced with a broad definition of stress and progressed to a discussion of stress in terms of its three types. A connection was established between the prevalence of stress amongst health care professionals and the difficulties faced by them when experiencing emotional stress, caused by compassion fatigue and burnout. It has considered the reasons why physicians are more vulnerable to stress related illness than the general population as well as the effects of mental illness on the physician’s family and patient care. This essay has drawn attention to the need for societal awareness and care of carers concerning stress and mental health conditions, and may be more appropriately summarized by Firth-Cozen (2003, as cited in Wong, 2008, p. 7) “Getting things right for patients means first getting things as good we can for those who deliver their care”.

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