The most important patient is yourself

Harry Nespolon

10/07/2019 3:38:39 PM

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon reflects on Dr Geoff Toogood’s brave decision to prioritise his mental health and relinquish his role as a keynote speaker at GP19.

GP19 stage
Dr Geoff Toogood has stepped away from public speaking roles, including GP19.

As GPs, we know the importance of mental health and the impact it can have on someone’s life.
Yet, we can also be poor at spotting the warning signs amongst our peers – a blind spot that unfortunately often extends to recognising struggles within ourselves.
For that reason, I would like to commend Dr Geoff Toogood for stepping back from all speaking engagements, including presenting at GP19, and offer him my unqualified support. It is a decision that speaks volumes about his strength of character, and reflects the value of doctors being able to understand their limits and acknowledge the importance of self-care.
As the catalyst beyond the worldwide CrazySocks4Docs movement, we owe much to Dr Toogood.
He has continuously proven himself to be a leader and example to us all with regard to treating mental health within the medical profession. Dr Toogood has tirelessly shared his experiences over the past five years, which has seen him repeatedly bare his soul to crowds of strangers, all in an effort raise awareness and convey his message of hope.
Now he needs our help. I would ask doctors to support Dr Toogood in his decision and allow him the space he needs for his own health.
The letter I received from Dr Toogood overnight was heartfelt and spoke not just to the importance of the work he has done, but also to how taxing it has been throughout the journey.
With Dr Toogood’s permission, I have selected a few lines from his letter that resonate personally with me.
‘Speaking has become extremely emotionally draining and at times a confronting task that takes its toll. It’s never just turning up to give a talk,’ he explains.
‘It is an attempt to deal with and hopefully change the confronting statistic of eight people (six men and two women) taking their own lives each and every day in this country. That is 3128 people last year. These numbers should horrify you as they horrify me.
‘It is exposing my vulnerabilities. It can take me back to places that are dark. And more recently, it also exposes me to the modern media world, both here and overseas.
‘Though it seems counter-intuitive, groups outside the medical field are more respectful of this and understand how hard it is to put yourself out there as a speaker, a leader of a movement and a person who has faced depression and anxiety.
‘The last few weeks have been particularly confronting while organising Crazysocks4Docs and reliving past traumas and previous dark days. With more visibility to my work comes trolling on social media.
‘The associated fallout from recent social and other media has shattered me … much of this negative attention on social media has been without many knowing my true story, what I do off social media and behind the scenes, and what I stand for.
‘I have been harmed. The result is that my own mental health is starting to suffer.
‘To ensure that I may remain well enough to continue my advocacy work, continue CrazySocks4Docs, continue my day job as a cardiologist and be a present and healthy father to my two daughters, I will be taking time to catch a breathe, regroup, recharge and seek the personal and professional support I require at this stage.’
While the circumstances behind Dr Toogood pulling out are regrettable and absolutely no fault of his own, once again he has managed to take a bleak situation and use it as a teaching moment for us all.
I invite all of you to reflect on his message, and respect his privacy and that of his family.

burnout GP19 mental health self-care

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Dr Pamela Lynn Leishman-Fenerty   11/07/2019 7:14:41 PM

Please take all the time out as needed. Thank you for all you have done for so many.
You will get better. Just do what you can and let others look after you.
I completely understand how those ‘dark’ thoughts can thump us.
Your honesty is utterly refreshing and in itself helps many.

Michael Fasher   13/07/2019 9:33:02 AM

Thank you Dr Toogood and Thank you Harry

Dr Roderick Graham Bain   13/07/2019 1:19:37 PM

What Dr Toogood has done for the profession and for himself is highly commendable. What I fail to understand is our fascination for social media and other people's response to our efforts on that platform. Make your point to educate readers and move on. One is not seeking the approval of others. eg Israel Folau.

Dr Deborah Uwa Sambo   14/07/2019 1:37:49 AM

Brave, courageous and sensible as always.
I wish you all the best.
You have been a breath of fresh air to our profession.
Dispelling the "myth" that we are "deputy Gods"- dishing out healing while being impervious to things that ail "common men" ( and women off course).

Peace and love to you and anyone who feels and understand what you feel.

S Frank   1/08/2019 6:36:56 PM

Dr Toogood realizes that there are 2 sides to life - our physical wellbeing as well as our mental health, and a combination of both. Severe depression failing to respond to antidepressants, where sleep is disturbed++ every night and whilst awake thoughts of suicide are forever in one's mind. Physical "health" where there is pain+ and failure to respond to our analgesics who so frequently have intolerable side-effects ...... The question so often arises why continue to lo live, a life of both physical and mental suffering? How much longer! There must be an alternative to suicide.