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Delaware Doctors' Mental Health Protected By New Legislation Allowing Them To Seek Help

WILMINGTON, Del. (CBS) -- Doctors in Delaware have new protections if they seek mental health treatments. This new legislation aims to allow doctors to get help for mental health conditions, without being stigmatized or putting their job in jeopardy.

Delaware Gov. John Carney signed a bill to support doctors who get mental health treatment.

"It sends a message to our physicians and health care providers that we care about them," Carney said.

In many states, to get a medical license, doctors have to disclose if they're being treated for mental health conditions, which can raise a red flag, putting the physician's license at risk. This will no longer happen in Delaware.

"Now, they can feel safe that they can get the help they need without being mandatorily reported unless there's impairment," Dr. Heather Farley with ChristianaCare said. "So we're still maintaining that component of patient safety."

Doctors say this is especially needed now, more than two years into the COVID pandemic when many doctors are burned out, suffering with high rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.

"It's exhausting," emergency physician Dr. Louis M. Profeta said. "I mean, most of us are having trouble sleeping, our own health has diminished somewhat, we've all gained weight."

Many doctors manage emotional struggles on their own, for more serious issues, experts say treatments can be very effective and usually don't interfere or impact a person's job performance.

"There's a difference between having a condition and being impaired," Farley said.

Farley is the Chief Wellness Officer at ChristianaCare. She advocated for the new legislation for doctors.

"It's now OK for them to not be OK and feel confident they can seek help without having negative ramifications for their license," Farley said.

Among the groups supporting the new legislation include the Delaware Healthcare Association and the Medical Society.

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