BECOMING A DOCTORS’ DOCTORNew Memoir by Michael F. Myers, MD, Lays Bare theMental Health Challenges of Physicians, Highlighting the Importance of Psychological Treatment for the Medical Community
Michael F. Myers, MD has devoted his life to the mental health of fellow physicians, having cared for hundreds of physician-patients and authored multiple books. In his new memoir, BECOMING A DOCTORS’ DOCTOR, Dr. Myers offers an insider’s look at the struggles doctors face as they shoulder the social and emotional costs of serving the community, and highlights the importance of mental health treatment for medical professionals. At the same time, he offers insight and hope to anyone coping with depression in themselves or in their loved ones.
Research estimates that roughly one quarter to a third of medical students develop symptoms of depression, including suicidal thinking. Moreover, practicing physicians have higher rates of depression than the general population. “Given the stigma in medicine associated with psychiatric illness and how hard it is to trust others, including psychiatrists, with what’s happening to you, many ailing medical students and most physicians are careful or strategic about whom they consult,” explains Dr. Myers. At the same time, when one is depressed, it can be difficult to reach out for professional help. “You feel vulnerable, frightened and unworthy, and you’re often sensitive to rejection or what you might misperceive as rejection,” he writes.
Dr. Myers’ interest in helping fellow doctors began when his roommate died by suicide during their first year of medical school. That was the start of his thirty-five-year career counseling both individual physicians and doctor-couples, and developing a deep understanding of the challenges these professionals face.
In BECOMING A DOCTORS’ DOCTOR, the author details his journey with authenticity and transparency, discussing his personal experiences and sharing vignettes of treating doctors for depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism and more, as well as helping them to manage loss – of patients, relationships, and family members. In addition, he devotes a chapter to the AIDS crisis – when doctors faced enormous losses of patients along with the risk of infection themselves, not unlike the current Covid-19 crisis. Dr. Myers also addresses the painfully difficult subject of suicide, offering a unique understanding of those who see it as a reasonable avenue out of their pain.
Throughout, the book sheds light on the institution of medicine itself – and how it has evolved when it comes to expectations regarding doctors’ mental health, as well as in regard to such issues as gender and sexual identity. “As a doctors’ doctor I have spent decades listening to chilling and heartbreaking accounts of how shunned or judged my patients have felt by their peers and the institutional rules of the profession of medicine. Those of us who treat physicians have a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to fight these destructive forces by educating, advocating and working for policy change,” writes Dr. Myers.
Engaging and compulsively readable, BECOMING A DOCTORS’ DOCTOR shines a light on a subject that is little discussed. “Physicians are no different than other people. They too are subject to life’s challenges and curveballs,” attests Dr. Myers. By understanding what doctors are facing, we can better understand ourselves – and offer the support medical professionals need to be the best caregivers they can be.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
DR. MICHAEL F. MYERS, author of BECOMING A DOCTOR’S DOCTOR, is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and recent past Vice-Chair of Education and Director of Training in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at SUNY-Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn, NY. He is the author or co-author of eight other books, including Why Physicians Die By Suicide, The Handbook of Physician Health and Doctors’ Marriages. His publications also include more than 150 articles covering such topics as marital therapy, men and reproductive technology, divorce, sexual assault of women and men, AIDS, the stigma of psychiatric illness, gender issues in training and medical practice, the treatment of medical students and physicians, boundary crossing in the doctor-patient relationship, and ethics in medical education and suicide. He has received multiple awards for excellence in teaching, and has served on the editorial boards of several medical journals. Along with his continuing clinical research, teaching and outreach in the field of suicide, Dr. Myers is a recent past President of the New York City Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Myers lectures widely throughout North America and beyond on these subjects.