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Hosted by Editor in Chief Lorenzo Norris, MD, Psychcast features mental health care professionals discussing the issues that most affect psychiatry.

Feb 12, 2020

William Lynes, MD, joins guest host Michael F. Myers, MD, to discuss his struggles with medical and psychiatric hardships, his suicidality, and the eventual suicide attempt that changed his life. Dr. Myers is professor of clinical psychiatry, State University of New York, Brooklyn.

Dr. Lynes, a retired urologist, author, and speaker/advocate on physician burnout and suicide, divides his professional life into two distinct eras: 1987-1998, during which he had a successful practice and happy life, and after 1998, when he spiraled downward medically and psychiatrically.

After meeting another physician with a similar experience who had published her story of burnout and mental health struggles in 2015, Dr. Lynes decided to speak out. Eventually, he published an essay about his experience in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Take-home points

  • Being open with close colleagues or supervisors about mental health struggles and/or burnout can provide a much-needed lifeline to struggling physicians.
  • Addressing burnout and mental health diagnoses of physicians requires medical groups and institutions to provide access to psychiatric treatment from clinicians outside of the professional network in which the physician practices.
  • Practicing medicine can be a 24/7 profession, and being “on” all the time can contribute to burnout. Lifestyle choices such as exercise, hobbies, family, and spirituality are all helpful outlets to address the constancy of practicing medicine.
  • Giving in to the notion that you can treat yourself is not a good idea.
  • Decreasing the stigma tied to mental illness can be helped by people with lived experience, such as Dr. Lynes.

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Lynes W. The last day. Ann Intern Med. 2016 May 3;164(9):631.

Myers MF and Freeland A. The mentally ill physician: Issues in assessment, treatment and advocacy. Can J Psychiatry. 2019 Dec 6;64(12):823-37.

Forbes MP et al. Optimizing the treatment of doctors with mental illness. Aust NZ Psychiatry. 2019 Feb;53(2):106-9.

Myers MF. “Why Physicians Die by Suicide: Lessons Learned From Their Families and Others Who Cared.” 2017 Feb 14. (Self-published).

Bird JL. “Using Narrative Writing to Enhance Healing.” Medical Information Science Reference, 2019.

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