Barriers, facilitators, and survival strategies for GPs seeking treatment for distress: a qualitative study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Johanna Spiers
  • Marta Buszewicz
  • Carolyn A Chew-Graham
  • Clare Gerada
  • David Kessler
  • Nick Leggett
  • Chris Manning
  • Anna Kathryn Taylor
  • Gail Thornton

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University College London
  • Keele University
  • Riverside Medical Centre
  • College of Medicine
  • University of Bristol


BACKGROUND: GPs are under increasing pressure due to a lack of resources, a diminishing workforce, and rising patient demand. As a result, they may feel stressed, burnt out, anxious, or depressed.

AIM: To establish what might help or hinder GPs experiencing mental distress as they consider seeking help for their symptoms, and to explore potential survival strategies.

DESIGN AND SETTING: The authors recruited 47 GP participants via e-mails to doctors attending a specialist service, adverts to local medical committees (LMCs) nationally and in GP publications, social media, and snowballing. Participants self-identified as either currently living with mental distress, returning to work following treatment, off sick or retired early as a result of mental distress, or without experience of mental distress. Interviews were conducted face to face or over the telephone.

METHOD: Transcripts were uploaded to NVivo 11 and analysed using thematic analysis.

RESULTS: Barriers and facilitators were related to work, stigma, and symptoms. Specifically, GPs discussed feeling a need to attend work, the stigma surrounding mental ill health, and issues around time, confidentiality, and privacy. Participants also reported difficulties accessing good-quality treatment. GPs also talked about cutting down or varying work content, or asserting boundaries to protect themselves.

CONCLUSION: Systemic changes, such as further information about specialist services designed to help GPs, are needed to support individual GPs and protect the profession from further damage.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e700-e708
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number663
Early online date29 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • mental health services, selfcare, anxiety, burnout, professional, depression, general practice

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