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Clare Gerada: Mindfulness is useful but not the only option

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 01 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l5698

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Re: Clare Gerada: Mindfulness is useful but not the only option

The high rate of mental health issues and suicide amongst doctors is unsurprising given the stressors associated with their roles, and the stigma associated with mental health issues in medical professions [1]. Therefore, discussing the mental health of medical professionals is important, and finding solutions to improve mental health is equally so. However, mindfulness will not solve these problems alone.
If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs a reason for this is demonstrated. This theory posits that basic needs at the lowest levels of the hierarchy, such as food and safety, must be met before needs higher up the hierarchy, such as psychological needs and self-fulfilment, can be achieved [2]. Mindfulness addresses some of the last needs a person has. It will not help medical professionals if they have not had a break to eat or sleep during their 24-hour on call shift and do not feel safe discussing their suicidal thoughts. Thus, strategies to tackle institutional causes and societal barriers to mental health in medical professionals must accompany the well-meaning push for mindfulness.
1 Gerada C. Doctors and suicide. Br J Gen Pract 2018;68:168–9. doi:10.3399/bjgp18X695345
2 Maslow AH. A theory of human motivation. Psychol Rev 1943;50:370.

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 October 2019
Matthew H V Byrne
Junior Doctor
Cambridge University Hospitals Trust
Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Rd, Cambridge, CB2 0QQ