Why do I support #CrazySocks4Docs?
One in 5 Australian doctors have been diagnosed with, or treated for, depression1. One in 4 have had thoughts of suicide. Almost half of all doctors are emotionally exhausted, burned out at work1. Forty percent of surgeons meet the criteria for burnout2. This is an elephant in the room sitting on the chest of us doctors. It takes courage to acknowledge this elephant. It takes even more courage if you are the one in 5 who turns up to work faithfully with a well-managed depression. It’s time for us to shine a spotlight on this endemic issue of mental health amongst us. There is a momentum and a societal support for this elephant to be tackled. The first step is raising awareness. Some of us have been wearing funky socks since before it was fashionable. Now there is a purpose to your sartorial style. #CrazySocks4Docs Day on First of June is an initiative to raise awareness of Mental Health amongst Clinicians. This campaign was started last year by Dr Geoff Toogood, a Melbourne Cardiologist. Wear mismatched crazy socks on the first of June and show them off proudly.
If I’m asked why the crazy socks? I say
- To Remember those who have died. I have lost a friend and colleague to suicide.
- To Raise awareness of Mental Health among Clinicians. One in 4 of my colleagues today have thought about suicide and one in 5 suffers from depression.
- To Reshape the culture of health care. We are human beings. We may be highly trained specialists but we are still human beings with similar struggles as our patients.
Awareness must lead to Actions, otherwise it will simply lead to Apathy. Awareness means that we respect and support our colleagues with mental illness and we support and encourage each other to engage with our GP, counsellor or other mental health workers. Awareness means that we begin talking about potential solutions to the elephant. It will involve more than setting up resilience training videos. It will require efforts at various personal, departmental, institutional, legal, state, federal and political level. It will require addressing workplace factors that negatively impact on mental wellbeing. The solutions have to be compassionate, creative and courageous. There are many stalwart warriors who have been fighting in this arena for years: psychiatrists, GPs, policy makers, families of those who have suffered, etc. We honour their work. This momentum is due to their hard work. Every talk, every lecture, every article, every workshop, every tweet, each one a small sacrifice that builds a momentum. Ultimately, improving the physical and mental wellbeing of clinicians will improve the care and the outcomes delivered for our patients. Our patients deserve physically and mentally healthy doctors caring for them.
- National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students. October 2013. Beyond Blue. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/docs/default-source/research-project-files/bl1132-report—nmhdmss-full-report_web
- Dimou FM, Eckelbarger D, Riall TS. Surgeon Burnout: A Systematic Review. J Am Coll Surg. 2016 Jun; 222(6): 1230–1239.
- Image credit to @perkieturkey, New Zealand Anaesthetist.