Commitment to improve mental health and wellbeing of doctors: AMA (WA)

Commitment to improve mental health and wellbeing of doctors: AMA (WA)

Wednesday 4 October 2017


Doctors are not the supermen and women that many think they are, and must take ownership of their own health, Australian Medical Association (WA) President Dr Omar Khorshid has said. 


Officially opening the Moving out of the Blue: Solutions in Doctors’ Welfare seminar last night, Dr Khorshid said it was not only significant that junior doctors’ wellbeing was being discussed, it was vital that solutions to this problem were found.


Organised by the AMA (WA) Junior Doctors’ Welfare Committee along with the Doctor’s Health Advisory Service WA, the fully booked seminar included doctors from all sectors of WA Health.


Live-streamed to ensure remote and regional doctors would not miss out, the seminar covered the stigma of mental health issues, burnout, access to leave and the efficacy of current procedures for dealing with doctors in distress.


Panellist Dr David Oldham, representing the Doctors’ Health Advisory Service, highlighted the importance of improving the culture of the health system.


“We need to improve culture at the organisational level, individual team or department levels and of course the individual itself,” he said.


Dr Oldham added that one key message that he has repeatedly stated during his tenure as a counsellor for junior doctors, was that the stigma surrounding mental health kills.


“Stigma kills. If a doctor identifies that they have a mental health issue they are immediately looked down on by their colleagues, and that increases the stress they have. As a result of that doctors are reluctant to seek help. They might deny that they have a mental health condition, hide it or they self-medicate, and as a consequence they are not treated properly,” he said.


Dr Oldham also mentioned the ‘resilience myth’, namely that junior doctors are not as resilient as doctors used to be.


“The doctors of today are just as resilient as the doctors of yesterday, the difference is the doctors of yesterday either complained or left, while the doctors of today are willing to highlight that their workloads are not reasonable,” he said. 


He also noted that in his experience, junior doctors who felt valued by simple measures, such as having adequate access to leave and being paid for overtime, were much less likely to struggle at work, no matter what the overall workload.


“We have to look at changing our culture and we need to do so much more to look after each other,” Dr Khorshid told the audience.


“We need to remember to look after ourselves in the same way that we look after our patients.


”The sad reality is that many junior doctors and senior doctors around the country have become victims of the hospital culture in which they work. Victims of depression, of alcoholism, of drug abuse and of course suicide.”


“We’ve had further confirmation of the extent of the challenges we face around morale and culture with the recent results of the Junior Doctor Hospital Health Check and at the senior level with the AMA’s medical engagement survey, the results of which will be released very soon.


“I commit to you that the AMA will tirelessly advocate for any practical solutions that come out of tonight to ensure that we see change in this area.”


Dr Khorshid added that it was also vital to pay regard to some of the ‘less tangible’ issues.


“Questions such as how do we properly support our colleagues facing pressures and what changes have there been in recent years in our system that we want to change.”


“We need to transform our hospitals into healthy workplaces,” he said.


Dr Khorshid thanked the organisers of the event, especially the DiT welfare subcommittee, the speakers, panel members and seminar moderator, Associate Professor Rosanna Capolingua.

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Why I Joined the AMA (WA)...
"It is my hope that we can tackle the challenges our profession faces, united as one. If we dislike our working hours, our pay, gender inequality or low training opportunities, we can change these together. As a nurse in my previous life, I know that when a profession stands as one, people listen."
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