Doctors and nurses wearing protective gear treat a patient in the covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston on June 29. (Go Nakamura/Bloomberg)

Regarding Esther Choo’s July 22 Wednesday Opinion essay, “Doctors are being pushed to the brink. They need help.”:

Tragically, Lorna Breen’s suicide is not unique. About 400 U.S. doctors die by suicide yearly, equivalent to the graduates of two medical schools annually. Although Dr. Breen’s treatment was not effective, interventions often work.

The perceived stigma of behavioral illnesses (depression, addiction and others) often prevents doctors from seeking help. Physician health programs exist in 47 states. Their sole purpose is to intervene and refer doctors for treatment and to monitor their health. They often are associated with the state medical association. Physician health programs frequently refer the affected doctors for evaluation and treatment to consultants outside the circle of doctors known to the patient-doctor. Patient safety is protected as the “sick” doctor does not practice until recovered.

Health-care workers are subject to incredible stress and deserve prompt professional care. Their lives and our lives depend on it.

Herbert Rakatansky, Providence, R.I.

The writer is chair of the Rhode Island Medical Society Physician Health Committee.

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