How You can Help Normalise the Conversation Around the Mental Health of Doctors.
With #crazysocks4docs day only 2 days away, it's time to rummage through your drawers to find your quirkiest socks to wear on Friday, June 2 to help raise awareness of the mental health of doctors and health professionals. Take a photo of yourself in your most outrageous socks (they don't even have to match) and post it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #crazysocks4docs.
Continuing the tradition started by the accomplished cardiologist Dr Geoff Toogood, we are reminded, more than ever on CrazySocks4Docs Day, that it is OK for healthcare workers to start conversations about mental health and to check in with each other. “Doctors need to look after each other, so that we can look after everyone else” Dr Geoff Toogood.
Geoff lived with both depression and anxiety, and liked to wear brightly coloured socks to lift his mood. After his recovery, Geoff still wore odd socks to work. The whispering he heard behind his back inspired him to become a leading voice for change within the medical profession. He started the day as an attempt to address the stigma and to make it OK for a doctor to be not OK.
Our very own director and founder Hamish Meldrum reflects on his outback experiences with mental health and explains why it’s so important to break down the stigma – now more than ever.
"As a doctor in Bourke I would often have difficulty transferring patients with an acute mental health crisis to the nearest referral hospital over 400km away. The scenario would run like this - you would talk to ‘patient flow’ to arrange a hospital admission but the flow would be lacking. First of all, you would need to have the patient scheduled, then arrange a police escort, make sure they were sedated, and have two IV lines. So with all that checked off, you just needed a plane and pilot, but often the pilot would refuse to fly. This never happened with physical illnesses but was pretty common in the area of mental health. Very frustrating and not good for patient care."
"Given the stigma within the health system towards patients with mental health problems, it should be no surprise that doctors are reluctant to come forward with their own problems. Doctors have a number of predisposing factors that can make them prone to mental health issues. They include having too much self-esteem invested in their work, putting in long hours, and dealing with death and patient trauma. Doctors experience higher levels of mental distress than the general population and according to the RACGP, four in ten GPs report they have personally delayed seeking treatment or care in the past few years with three in four GPs experiencing burnout over the past 12 months."
"So how should we all, doctors included, build resilience to mental health? The key things in my opinion are to make time for exercise, stay connected to family and friends, and find your sense of purpose. However, this is CrazySocks4Docs Day, and as well as looking after ourselves we need to look after others. So, if you have a friend or a work colleague, and they don’t seem to be themselves, don’t be afraid to reach out and check in with them. Mental health issues are common and often temporary and your action of reaching out, not judging, and having a conversation, can make a difference."
There’s lots of useful information available to help Doctors stay healthy. You can find a good selection of resources collated on the drs4drs website. Visit the resource hub https://www.drs4drs.com.au/resource-hub/
Don’t forget to join us on Friday 2 June to start a conversation and help raise awareness of just how important it is for all of us to look after our mental health.