It doesn’t matter which industry you work in – mental health does not discriminate, and given the critical function that medical professionals serve and the field they work in, it’s hard to imagine that healthcare professionals are more often than not also suffering from mental illnesses.

We’ve looked at 5 common health and wellness challenges that medical professionals face.

Chronic Stress

The ever-increasing demand placed on medical students, residents and physicians makes it imperative to develop coping skills for – and ways to get out from under – extreme stress. Stress can negatively impact concentration, memory, and sleep, which will lead to more serious issues such as anxiety and depression down the line.

Although most people know when they are experiencing stress, it can take a while for them to fully acknowledge it. If you, or anyone you know, are experiencing any of the following issues, you should consider getting help:

  • Burnout
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Word processing problems
  • Increased dependence on substances

Sleep Disorders

It should come as no surprise that many medical professionals may struggle getting a good night’s sleep – given their potential stressors and chaotic schedules. It’s been said that a strong connection exists between sleep disorders and mental health issues, including mood and anxiety disorders.

The signs of sleeping disorders vary greatly from person-to-person, but some common signs to look for include:

  • Continuation issues: Waking up several times throughout the night or waking up earlier than expected etc.
  • Unavoidable movement
  • Unexpected sleep
  • Irritability

Substance Abuse

Mental health still carries a huge stigma, and it is therefore hard for anyone to admit that they need professional help when they experience stress, sleeplessness, and other health and wellness challenges. It’s saddening yet not surprising when this leads to substance abuse. While certain substances such as Adderall and Xanax may help in the short-term but can have serious long-term implications.

Whether it is substance-related or not, addiction creates distinct signs that, if left unaddressed, can quickly start to cause negative impacts on school and work.

  • Inability to focus
  • Poor spending habits
  • Inability to quit
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Hangovers


Medical students and professionals face many unique pressures, which include helping individuals with illnesses, injuries, and disease. If their own mental health isn’t strong enough, these issues can take a serious toll, and if left untreated, depression can manifest into more serious issues.

Just like many other mental health issues, signs of depression vary by individual, and may come and go with the presence of certain triggers.

  • Sad and melancholy mood for most of the day and nearly every day
  • Lack of interest, especially in activities or subjects that once brought great joy and happiness
  • Weight loss or decrease in appetite, especially when not dieting or trying to lose weight
  • Loss of energy or overall fatigue daily
  • Slowed physical movement observable by others
  • Reduced ability to think, concentrate, or remember things
  • Regular thoughts of death or suicide, with or without a plan


Suicidal thoughts often stem from other mental health issues and can be addressed early if recognized. The medical industry face enormous pressure daily, making it a necessity for this community to receive targeted and ongoing support.

It’s not that easy to identify symptoms within someone contemplating suicide and can very easily go completely unnoticed.

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Talking about death
  • Self-destructive behaviour
  • Thinking about death
  • Saying goodbyes

It’s time to end the stigma surrounding mental health and our ability to treat this like we would any other disease. If you, or anyone you know are experiencing any symptoms or are showing any signs of mental health issues, please contact the South African Federation for Mental health on 011 781 1852.