CMA marks Mental Health Awareness Month with call to pass AB 2164

May 14, 2024

During Mental Health Awareness Month, the California Medical Association (CMA) is urging legislators to pass Assembly Bill 2164 to improve mental health support for physicians.  

The Medical Board of California licensure application for physicians and surgeons, including postgraduate training licensees, may inadvertently discourage physicians from seeking mental health services. The process perpetuates stigma around mental health and can exacerbate issues of burnout and depression within the medical community. 

CMA is sponsoring AB 2164, introduced by Assemblymember Marc Berman, which seeks to eliminate the obligation for physicians to unnecessarily disclose their mental health conditions. Removing this barrier would make it more likely for physicians to seek the mental health support they need, benefiting both themselves and their patients. 

Resident physicians can face high levels of stress due to moving to new cities without social or family support, high levels of debt, and long hours of work. All of these factors underscore the need to ensure they get the mental health support they need, without fear of jeopardizing their future career. 

“CMA is calling on legislators to pass AB 2164 to ensure that physicians can access mental health care without fear of jeopardizing their careers,” said CMA President Tanya W. Spirtos, M.D. "Physicians, like everyone else, can experience stress, burnout, and mental health challenges. Seeking mental health services can be crucial for maintaining balance, resilience, and overall well-being, benefiting both physicians and their patients." 

“For this Mental Health Awareness Month, I also want to stress how important it is for health care providers to prioritize wellness and seek mental health care when they need it,” Dr. Spirtos said.  

Physicians for a Healthy California (PHC), the charitable arm of CMA, recently published a study that presents crucial insights into the factors contributing to burnout and attrition among women physicians of color. The study — A Prescription for Change: Addressing Retention Among Women Physicians of Color in California — evaluated the experiences of more than 1,150 women physicians, from various health care settings throughout California and found that, “Of those surveyed, 45.8% of women physicians reported high levels of overall burnout.”  

“Physicians face unique challenges in supporting and nurturing their mental health," noted Dr. Spirtos. "The study by Physicians for a Healthy California underscores the critical need for policies like AB 2164, which can alleviate some of these burdens and ensure that all physicians aren’t penalized for getting the mental health support they need to thrive in their careers and provide the best care for their patients." 


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