The figures around doctors' mental health and resilience continue to be alarming. New Zealand has a tragic record of suicide, depression and anxiety, and research suggests these rates are higher in RMOs than in their age-matched peers.
In recent years, at least two RMOs lost their lives to suicide (and those are the two we know about). The job we do as doctors can be highly rewarding, but if the day-to-day work takes us to dark, sad and stressful places, then we need the strength to move through, the peer support to pull us through and the flexibility in our work places and training programmes to give us space and time to work things out.
While not all stress is negative (and is sometimes necessary), the compounding effect of many internal and external stressors can seem overwhelming. Our first step is to ensure that the barriers to accessing and asking for help are low. We strive to do this for our patients and should try even harder to do this for our colleagues.
For more in-depth information on looking after yourself and looking out for your friends, have a look at our Are you OK? section.
Bullying & Harassment
The NZMA has produced a resource on bullying and harassment, which provides information about support service and dealing with bullying.
Keeping your Grass Greener
In 2011 the guide Keeping Your Grass Greener was first published as a joint project between NZMSA and AMSA. An updated version was released last year. This guide features articles written by leading experts and covers stress management and mental resilience. Although targeted at med students, there is a lot of valuable information. You can download a copy here.
Counselling services are available through MPS/MAS (see below for details). Remember that doctors need doctors too and scheduling an appointment with your GP is another tool if you or a colleague need help. Talking with a trusted registrar or consultant may open options you didn't realise possible, such as part time work or a few leave days—having an advocate when you're too tired or stressed to do it yourself is important! Again, we do it for our patients, it is the least we can do for our colleagues.
Help is always available:
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)—all hospital RMOs on the DHB MECA and GP trainees on the GPEP1 MECA have access to fully funded counselling through EAP. This is a confidential service. Call 0800 327 669 or book online.
Medical Protection Society (MPS)—all MPS members have access to fully funded counselling through MPS. This is a confidential service. Call 0800 225 5677, select option three and ask for the counselling service.
Beating the Blues—your GP can refer you for free online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). For more information see www.beatingtheblues.co.nz.
Depression.org.nz—a useful online resource. See www.depression.org.nz.
The following phone services are available 24/7:
- Lifeline—www.lifeline.org.nz or 0800 543 354
- Suicide Crisis Helpline (a Lifeline service)—0508 TAUTOKO (0508 828 865)
- Depression Helpline (a Depression.org.nz service)—0800 111 757
If you feel you or someone else is at acute risk, this is an emergency—call 111.
The NZMA has a position statement on Doctors' Health, Wellbeing and Vitality. This statement provides guidance and recommendations on the health and wellbeing of doctors at a policy level, including recommendations for doctors and medical students, training providers, employers, government and key decision makers.