CrazySocks4Docs to shine a light on doctor mental health

Doug Hendrie

31/05/2019 1:46:35 PM

newsGP speaks with campaign founder Dr Geoff Toogood about the ongoing need to be aware of doctors’ mental health.

Dr Geoff Toogood
Dr Geoff Toogood spoke out on mental health – and founded an international awareness campaign.

CrazySocks4Docs asks healthcare professionals to wear odd socks on Friday 7 June to raise awareness of the huge number of doctors experiencing issues of mental illness in silence.
Melbourne cardiologist Dr Geoff Toogood founded the campaign after a period of severe depression. During that time, he put on a brave face at work, for fear of being stigmatised.
But after he wore odd socks one day, a colleague questioned his sanity. In truth, the odd socks were because his dog had chewed up the matching ones.
The question – and the assumption behind it – stuck with Dr Toogood, even after he sought help and began his recovery. He took a photo of his odd socks, posted it on social media and asked others to share it.
Three years later, the CrazySocks4Docs campaign has gone global, with doctors in Canada, the EU, US, UK and South Africa taking part.
Dr Toogood told newsGP he feels that change is slowly taking place.
‘There is significant stigma – [doctors] are reluctant to seek help for our own illness,’ he said.
‘But I’ve heard this morning that because of this campaign, [doctors] are getting help.’
Dr Toogood said that sharing his own story over the last three years had at times been confronting.
‘What I’ve got out of it is realising it’s helped so many people,’ he said.
The campaign comes after a spate of suicides within the medical profession and RACGP concerns over mandatory reporting laws that in some states require doctors treating doctors to report serious mental illness to Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Female doctors have a 146% higher risk of suicide, and male a 26% higher risk, compared to the general population, according to a 2010 Beyond Blue review.
At the campaign launch in Melbourne, former surgical registrar Dr Miko Kadota told her story of overwork and burnout, which attracted worldwide attention late last year after she went public on her blog.
Long-time doctors’ mental health advocate Dr Mukesh Haikerwal told newsGP that Dr Toogood had used his own near-catastrophic experience as a way to reduce the stigma of seeking help in the medical profession.
‘It’s our mentality that we feel guilty for taking time off, for being sick. We feel like failures for being unwell or a fraud for seeking help,’ he said.
‘All of that is utter nonsense.
‘We’re all human, and we have the same vulnerabilities and the same human needs.’
Dr Haikerwal said GPs could help by making it easier for doctors to become patients by understanding their concerns about stigma and making it clear that doctor-patients are welcome.
‘Doctors are not very good at being patients,’ he said.
‘First and foremost, we have to look after our own health. Go and get a GP who is not in your practice.’

The campaign comes as the RACGP this week launched the first GP wellbeing survey and is inviting GPs and general practice registrars to contribute.

Insights gained will help the RACGP to understand the supports currently being accessed, where future investment is needed, and the barriers and challenges faced by GPs regarding their own wellbeing and mental health.

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Dr JN Parikh   1/06/2019 12:12:45 PM

Is someone suggesting that mental health and burnout is the only sickness we get.Most die of CV problem as well
Do we need to invent something like odd socks again ?

Dr S Mitchell   1/06/2019 5:07:04 PM

To me this trivialises mental health issues and would probably make me less likely to seek help. It would be a more appropriate campaign for making us less intimidating to small children. Will they send clowns round to surgeries to cheer us up next?