Politics Research — 08 October 2013

A new national survey has found that Australian doctors and medical students experience higher levels of psychological distress than the general community.

Mental health group Beyond Blue interviewed more than 14,000 doctors and medical students. bigstockphoto_Migraine_Headache_1133618

The study found that one in five students and one in 10 doctors had suicidal thoughts.

Almost 4 per cent of doctors are experiencing high levels of psychological distress, a figure much higher than the general community.

Beyond Blue says cancer doctors were the most distressed specialists, while young female doctors were most at risk of mental health problems.

Former Australian Medical Association president and Beyond Blue adviser Dr Mukesh Haikerwal says working in the health sector can be troubling.

“We deal with lots of trauma,” he told News Breakfast.

“Psychological trauma, physical trauma and other things that affect way we work.”

Dr Haikerwal says the troubles can start as early as in training.

“There’s almost a machismo within the profession,” he said.

“There’s a whole lot of bullying that happens in certain parts of the training process.

“And of course the working hours as we all know, it is quite an arduous time to get through to be fully qualified.”

Beyond Blue chief executive Kate Carnell says many doctors are still reluctant to admit they have a mental health problem and seek treatment.

“Nearly 59 per cent of doctors believed that it was a bit embarrassing to be a patient of another doctor,” she said.

“So many of them weren’t putting up their hand and getting support when they were struggling.”

Ms Carnell says stigma about mental health in the medical community is still common.

“About 45 per cent thought that experiencing depression or anxiety was a sign of weakness,” she said.

Ms Carnell says it is in everyone’s best interest to address the issue.

“It can affect their ability to deliver the best possible care,” she said.

“If somebody is experiencing significant depression and anxiety they’re not going to be able to do their job as good as they should be able to.”

This article first appeared on ABC Online on 8 October, 2013.


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