“I learned that I must take care of myself before I can care for anyone else,” Dr Hill said.
Another lesson his experience with alcohol addiction taught him is that stereotypes — for example, that alcoholics are “bums” who live under bridges — often are not true, and that mental health “has no prejudice.” This understanding helped him to see each person’s unique story, he says.
Stereotypes not only help keep providers with mental health issues in the closet, they also place patients at risk, Dr Hill wrote.
“The professionals who pose a risk to patient safety are those with active, untreated medical conditions who don’t seek help out of fear and shame,” he said.
Finally, Dr Hill said that being open about his story and allowing himself to be vulnerable has led to personal growth, compassion, and connection. He now seeks employment only in supportive workplaces, and said that he finds that the benefits of authenticity outweigh the risks.
“When a colleague dies from suicide, we become angry, we mourn, we search for understanding and try to process the death… then we go on doing the same things,” he writes. “It’s way past time for a change.”
Hill AB. “Breaking the Stigma — A Physician’s Perspective on Self-Care and Recovery”. New England Journal of Medicine. 2017; 376: 1103-1105. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1615974