National Doctors Day: Why do we celebrate Dr BC Roy's birthday on July 1?

Visitors check out the prison cell where Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy was imprisoned in 1930. Photo: Shutterstock/suprabhat

In 1945, a severe cholera epidemic spread through Kolkata, infecting thousands of people. Then West Bengal Chief Minister Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy aka BC Roy, also a distinguished physician, acted swiftly and began attending to patients along with the available healthcare professionals and volunteers.

He organised relief camps, launched extensive awareness campaigns, worked to ensure clean water and waste disposal in the city; he arranged medical supplies and launched food distribution initiatives and deployed teams to areas that needed urgent help.

To recognise his efforts, the Indian government decided to celebrate his birthday, on July 1, as the National Doctors Day from 1991. The day is considered an occasion to appreciate the work of doctors and events are held across the country to recognise their achievements.

As we remember their services to the society, it is important to understand the toll it takes on those who pick the medical profession as a career path.

How does the profession affect doctors?
The intense and prolonged exposure to human suffering and the challenges of saving lives can have severe psychological impacts on doctors. Drawing parallels with the mental health issues experienced by soldiers in World War I, medical practitioners frequently develop conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, panic disorders, and substance abuse issues. The demanding nature of the profession often leads to a scarcity of leisure time and strained personal relationships, amplifying the risk of mental health challenges.

While a select few medical professionals may enjoy the compensations of success, reputation, and social standing, the reality is that the majority do not. As a consequence, they face depression, anxiety disorders, alcoholism, drug abuses, marital discord, and family disruptions. They set a substrate for suicidal ideation. When these pathologies cumulatively thicken over a period, suicide attempts occur. Acquaintance with lethal methods and accessibility to lethal drugs and surgical instruments often turn these attempts fatal.

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