Beneath the White Coat

NEW BOOK

Why do so many doctors fail to seek mental health support? What are the consequences when their emotional and mental well-being is overlooked by both themselves and the system at large? Studies over the decades have shown that medical professionals are at higher risk of burnout, depression and suicide than many other professional groups, yet there remains deep-rooted opposition on the parts of individual doctors when it comes to asking for help and often inadequate support structures on offer when they do. The new landscape created by COVID-19, and the unprecedented psychological demands that have been placed on medical staff, now creates urgent need for a new conversation about the mental health of medical professionals.

In her new book, Beneath the White Coat: Doctors, their minds and mental health, Gerada explores why so many doctors fail to seek mental health support, and what the consequences are when their emotional and mental well-being is overlooked by both themselves and the system at large.

She draws upon leading experts, new studies and moving personal experiences and testimonies to examine the long-term and potentially catastrophic impact on individuals personally, and health services overall, if steps are not taken to both improve access to mental health services and bring discussion of trauma, stigma, guilt and the myth of perfectionism into the open.

Studies over the decades have shown that medical professionals are at higher risk of burnout, depression, substance abuse and suicide than many other professional groups, yet there remains deep-rooted opposition on the parts of individual doctors when it comes to asking for help and often flawed and inadequate support structures on offer when they do.

This thought-provoking book looks at the issues form a range of disciplines and perspectives, showing where the greatest concerns lie, but also offers hope and practical solutions on how medical professionals can heal and thrive with the right understanding and support.

Essential reading for medical staff, policy-makers, educators politicians and anyone who believes it is the ethical duty of a society to look after those who look after us, this book is a balanced and provocative challenge to many accepted notions surrounding the medical field and it raises issues that are more important now than ever, including:

  • Why sometimes the most dedicated, passionate and motivated doctors risk disillusionment and depression

  • How notions of perfectionism and endless resilience permeate medical training and career progression, often contributing to damagingly unrealistic expectations on doctors

  • Common barriers to doctors seeking support - why hiding their mental health problems is the norm for many doctors and how the medical system creates stigma

  • Why female doctors may be especially vulnerable to increased risk of suicide

  • How migrant doctors may receive the least psychological support and are at the greatest risk of isolation, harassment and discrimination

  • How disciplinary action and fear of failure impact on the psychological health of doctors

  • How charities such as Doctors in Distress offer vital and pioneering mental health support and why ‘doctor-specific’ services are so vital

  • How Covid-19 is impacting on doctors’ mental health and why this presents a turning point for either post-traumatic stress or ‘post-traumatic growth’

Beneath the White Coat: Doctors, their minds and mental health edited by Dr Clare Gerada is out on 29 October 2020, published by CRC Press, £24.99

“This is the book I wish I'd read before I started as a doctor, and a book that every medical student and doctor should read. It's thorough and exquisitely researched but remains accessible, and is shot through with Clare's trademark warmth and humanity.” Adam Kay, bestselling author and former doctor.


Dr Clare Gerada is Medical Director of NHS Practitioner Health, a specialist service for sick doctors (practitioner-patients) which has rapidly become an international leader. Between 2010-2013 she led the Royal College of General Practitioners, only the second women to hold this Office in its history. Since 2020 she has been Chair of the charity, Doctors in Distress, which aims to reduce suicides amongst health care workers. She first trained in psychiatry and became a GP in 1992. Clare was one of the first British doctors to contract Covid-19 and publicly talk about her experience as a survivor, in the media.