The recent sudden deaths of three trainee psychiatrists and a hospital intern in Victoria have raised concerns that the medical profession is not doing enough to support people in the industry struggling with mental health. The three psychiatric trainees were working at St Vincent’s, Austin, and Frankston hospitals, while the intern was one week into an internship at Geelong Hospital. Beyond Blue’s doctors’ mental health program chairman Mukesh Haikerwal said there was not enough support for medical professionals.”Just because you are a training or training-to-be medical professional does not mean that you are immune from [mental health problems],” Dr Haikerwal said. “You do need to seek help. You need to have help. You need to have systems in the workplace.
“This is where Beyond Blue is doing a lot of work in terms of supporting people in the workplace to deal with and… who are suffering from illness and that includes mental illness. The problem is it still has stigma. It still isn’t properly addressed in the global way of dealing with health and welfare.” Dr Haikerwal said he was first alerted to the deaths by a colleague. “My introduction to what happened was when my own registrar in my general practice came in ashen because he’d been up all night with one his best friends dying overnight. To me it evoked many of my previous pieces of work… trying to determining what drives our profession to self harm, and observing that the rates of mental illness within our profession is quite significant.” He said he had since been asked to meet with a number of trainee psychiatrists about the issue.
“With four people in Victoria in a very short space of time dying suddenly, it opens a whole lot of additional questions about why this is happening and what can be done to reduce the drive for this to happen,” he said. He said the workload, stress and expectations on medical professionals were significant. “The way in which the system is put together really underrates the danger of people with mental illness. So 30 per cent of the population at any one time will have some degree of mental illness and we don’t really support them particularly well, including our own profession.”
This article first appeared ABC, 3 February 2015.