Duchess vs. Doctor: Why Meghan Markle’s mental health matters to me

Whether you like her or not, Meghan is speaking openly about suicide. For that, I am thankful.

In her interview with Oprah, The Duchess of Sussex shared her suicidal thoughts—and how she was obstructed from mental health care, told to “tough it out” and keep smiling. The Duchess needed a doctor. Yet doctors are reported to have the highest suicide rate of any profession as we’ve also been obstructed from mental health care, told to “suck it up” and keep smiling. That’s why “happy” doctors die by suicide. We’re seen as privileged with no rights to complain. So we hide our pain for fear of being stripped of our titles.

A physician friend witnessed 13 patients die in one day then dealt with a physician trainee’s suicide attempt before begging for help. Superiors told her to drive out of town, pay cash, and use a pseudonym.

Most patients seek health care without jeopardizing their careers, yet doctors must report anxiety, PTSD, even postpartum depression and release medical records in applications for state medical licensing and hospital privileges year after year. Lie and you lose your license.

After surviving my own brush with suicide, I began a hotline to help suicidal doctors. A decade later, I’m still shocked by what I hear. A few recent real-life scenarios . . .

To ensure confidential mental health care, physicians:

Use fake names or pseudonyms
Pay cash or crypto (not insurance)
Drive 300 hundred miles out of town
Snailmail scripts to Canadian pharmacies
Pay cash for drugs at multiple out-of-state pharmacies
Self-medicate with in-office drugs
Get drugs shipped from psychiatrist mom
Obtain psychiatric prescriptions by endocrinologist spouse, radiologist friend, orthopaedic surgeon colleague
Have non-physician family members feign mental illness to get psych drugs they divert to doctor
See psychiatrists who only use paper charts with fake names or initials locked in fingerprint safes
Choose psychiatrists who keep sparse or no medical records
Travel internationally to get psychiatric care and meds
Visit Jamaica to seek care from a psilocybin shaman
See unlicensed healers who keep no documentation
Use physician business retreats for mental health care
Call suicide helpline anonymously for weekly check-ins
Meet psychiatrists at secret entrance to office (or in hotel, alley, or parking lot)
Share psych drugs with each other as medical trainees
Rely on spouse or pastor for mental health care

Clandestine care makes mental illness nondiscoverable. Physicians fear psychiatrists who may be mandated reporters to physician health programs (PHPs) and state boards. Both may publish their conditions on board websites and the National Practitioner Data Bank.

While compiling this ludicrous list, I got an email from a Texas psychiatrist who just opened his practice devoted to serving physicians. When I called to congratulate him, he seemed unaware that the Texas Medical Board (TMB) can subpoenae his patients’ medical records without consent.

So maybe we’re back to the Jamaican shaman.

The bigger question: Why obstruct mental health care for a Duchess or a Doctor?

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4 comments on “Duchess vs. Doctor: Why Meghan Markle’s mental health matters to me
  1. Nargess says:

    Thanks Pamela for this article. Little by little we are making a change to this broken system limiting our access to proper psychiatric care.
    Take care and be well

  2. Heather Hamood says:

    I’m so grateful for you Dr. Wible and for all of the positive changes you are making in the medical field. Laws should and need to be passed in all 50 states to prevent abuse and bullying in all workplaces. There is too much abuse in the workplaces, especially in the medical field and a lot of it goes unnoticed, because of narcissistic abusers who think they can get away with it, because they are doctors, which gives them power. A lot of them use this power to abuse more. Gaslighting, narcissistic abuse, and psychological abuse are never okay and victims of it can be damaged for life and could even take their life because of it. Abuse and bullying can lead to lifelong mental issues such as depression, OCD, PTSD, panic disorder, anxiety, etc which can lead to even suicide. All of this could be prevented if we had laws in the workplace in all 50 states to stop bullying and abuse. HR needs to do a much better job with preventing this as well. Schools have laws that prevent bullying and the workplace needs it too. The somewhat toxic culture of the medical field needs to stop and so does the ruthless and Machiavellianism mentality. Doctors need to realize we’re all in this together and the objective isn’t to one up and compete with someone but it’s patient care and patient safety. Too much abuse, harassment and bullying goes unnoticed in the medical field and it needs to stop. Bullying, abuse and harassment are never okay and physicians that do this and are part of this groupthink should have their licenses revoked for lack of moral character. They should also be reprimanded, fired and have to go in front of a medical board. All of us took a Hippocratic Oath to Do No Harm, so why are some doctors and medical staff intentionally inflicting pain and harm on innocent people who have done nothing to them? This is wrong and doctors that do this, need to have their licenses revoked, because this abuse can cause suicide. Just because some of them were abused and bullied in medical school or in residency, doesn’t give them the right to do it to someone else. Two wrongs never make a right. The victim shouldn’t have to suffer, and this is where laws need to be stricter on this issue. Yet, physicians have to disclose to the medical licensure boards mental issues like PTSD, depression, OCD, anxiety, etc that were caused by the toxic culture and abuse in the medical field? I pray laws get passed in all 50 states in all workplaces against bullying and abuse. I believe if this happened the licensure boards would be more lenient on the mental issues one has to disclose. What about the ADA? Doctors should be protected more under the ADA too. Doctors should be able to go to therapy without having to be ashamed by it. Wellness is so important, especially in the workplace. I’m so happy there are people like Dr. Wible and others that are making such a positive change in the medical field and are true heroes 👩🏻‍⚕️🙏💜🙌😇

  3. Kimmy J says:

    Markle is the abuser. She’s controlling, playing victim, constant relational chaos. You’re still a chump if you keep falling for these self serving celebrity look-at-me-i’m-a-victim-buy-my-book stunts.

  4. Cindy Bode says:

    I have always thought I was a badass. Sacrificing my personal health to stay later than expected, do more than expected, etc. without praise or financial compensation. We all do it. At what point do we realize the machine will continue to run without us and even forget we were ever there. I recently realized my own PTSD, coupled with panic attacks, body dissociation, and weird physical sensations. Why have I done it? I too had a wack childhood, open heart surgery at 3 in 1972, rapes, young parents who didn’t know how to raise me, so I became an OR nurse. A damn good one too. I’ve also tried to avoid looking at my own trauma by fighting against a broken healthcare system out to make money at the cost of patient lives. I can’t do it anymore.

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