Mental health program looks to address ‘tough it out’ culture among medical residents

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Dr. Katie Thorsness has witnessed too many medical residents in crisis avoid seeking help.

Thorsness said that the “tough-it-out” culture of physician training causes some medical residents to suffer from their mental health problems in silence. This can lead to them becoming in danger. Thorsness is a psychiatrist for Resident Integrated Support Environment or RISE. RISE is a program developed by the Hennepin Healthcare Foundation to assist residents with financial, mental and physical health issues.

Thorsness stated that before RISE launched in 2019, Thorsness had seen many doctors, sometimes too late. They were anxious about seeking treatment for a variety of reasons. I was able to hear their pain as a psychiatrist.


Thorsness stated that physicians are at significantly higher risk for suicide and depression. “We know that 28% will experience major depression while they are in training. This is significantly higher than the 7%-8% of similar-aged adults in the U.S.


A higher suicide rate is associated with higher rates of depression. She said: “Male doctors are 1.4 times more likely than female physicians to commit suicide. Female physicians are 2.3x more likely to commit suicide than age- and gender-matched people in the U.S.”

Dr. Katie Thorsness


RISE’s goal is to promote conversations about resident mental health. This has been traditionally discouraged by residency programs. She said that residents believe “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” is their only option. You must complete the training. You must complete the training. This rotation must be managed.


Thorsness stated that this outdated practice often affects female residents, especially those who have children. Thorsness said that much of this is due to the traditional emotional burden that many women have in their relationships and families. Residents with children are not supported by medical training.”

She noticed that younger residents feel more comfortable discussing their mental health and seeking help when in crisis. She hopes to make RISE and other organizations, such as the Dr. Mom Foundation, to make doctors more visible in residency programs. This will show that doctors are people and that it is not weakness to be open about mental illness struggles.


Thorsness stated that RISE aims to change the belief system of residents by allowing them to ask for help and be vulnerable. It is encouraging to hear from residents who claim they were referred by colleagues when she is contacted.


“Font-weight: 400 ;”>” The highest honor for being a supporter in RISE is to have the residents recommend it each other,” Thorsness stated.

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