‘Psychological PPE’ as important as gloves and goggles

Matt Woodley

1/06/2021 10:58:43 AM

The COVID pandemic has amplified healthcare workers’ mental health concerns, making self-care more important than ever.

Dr Geoff Toogood
Since starting in 2017, Dr Geoff Toogood’s CrazySocks4Docs message has gone global.

For the past five years, CrazySocks4Docs founder Dr Geoff Toogood has asked healthcare professionals to wear odd socks on the first Friday in June to raise awareness about doctors experiencing issues of mental illness in silence.
And throughout that time, Dr Toogood says there has never been a more pressing need for the message about reducing stigma and improving self-care to resonate and result in direct action.
‘We talk about physical PPE … but then there’s the psychological PPE,’ he told newsGP.
‘It’s about looking after each other, understanding the trigger points for being unwell, and the protection that organisations have got to put in to protect us psychologically, which is multifactorial.
‘This is the time where both physical and psychological PPE needs to be utilised … [because] the mental health stresses on doctors have been amplified during COVID.’
Dr Toogood’s pleas for action appear to be supported by the findings of the first newsGP weekly poll, in which almost half of all respondents (48%) identified ‘avoiding burnout’ as their main priority over the next 12 months.
Research released in October last year revealed frontline healthcare workers have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with more than 60% of GPs indicating their mental health and wellbeing has been affected, and 83% citing a rise in workplace stress and pressure.
‘It’s more than awareness. It’s acknowledging that there are mental health issues in our profession, and that we need to look after each other,’ Dr Toogood said.
‘Some of this stuff to help us stay well is simple – it’s just being nice to each other, looking after each other on a day-to-day basis.
‘Time and space is another [technique] I use. Time to yourself, time to recover, time for downtime and a safe space to do it. It is imperative and you’ve just got to learn to factor into the day.’
Dr Toogood said while GPs may face different pressures to emergency doctors or doctors in training, ‘the theme is pretty much the same’.
‘Ultimately, long working weeks and long hours is bad for you. If you keep doing it week in, week out your mental health and physical health will suffer,’ he said.
‘It’s not us being selfish. If we look after ourselves and look out for each other, it underpins a safe and effective healthcare system for everyone.’
To help support GPs and other healthcare workers, the RACGP is selling socks until 30 June and will donate all profits to Beyond Blue.
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