In 2006, when I was working in a small rural location, we'd had a quite a stressful month, or two months with our patients. It was very much a hands-on job, because there was only a few doctors for a very large area. And I didn't really pick up on the symptoms, myself, I put it down to being tired. And I put it down to working hard. And I put it down to just... I'm a registrar, so I have to just do the work and sort of suck it up.
But it was actually one of my supervisors that picked up on the symptoms and they pulled me aside and said, "Look, you're turning up late for work. It's only ten minutes, but you only live down the road. You're leaving work right at the... Like exactly when you finish," which is not like me. I had a couple of days off, because I also identified that work for me is normality. But the good thing about them pointing out all of those features is that now I know some of the things to look for, when my mood is potentially going down.
I became very unwell, physically, in 2008. I had an extended period of time off work and then I tried to just re-assimilate and go back to the clinic and start seeing patients. And that was when my mood really dropped. And I actually had to take a few days off, just to sort of spread myself out for the return to work.
Speaker 2: Nomes. Do you have a minute?
S1: Yeah, come in Nedy.
I had to sit down with the practice manager and say, "I just can't do this, I need to work. I need to be working, but I need a way of being able to come back slowly, so that I don't feel so overwhelmed. And I don't feel like everything's crashing down and lowering my mood." And we basically sat down and said, "Right, what days do you definitely want to work? And do that for a month and then we can look at doing something added after that." So, the workplace was really supportive... I was lucky, it was really supportive.
To stay well, I try to ensure that I have variety in my life. So, I have my work and then I have quite a lot of things that I do outside of work, which reminds me that my life is not just about being a doctor, it's about being a person first. And in order to stay well I need to do things that remind of me that, like shopping, coffee, catching up with friends, visiting family, walking the dog. And they're really important things.
I think it becomes a dual responsibility. One, I think is for the person that's suffering it and identifying with it, to actually seek help. And that's really important, but I think there's also a responsibility of the other doctors to actually point out that it might be a good idea if you go and get checked out and say, "This is what we've noticed." Which is a really difficult thing to do. The initial advice, that I would give to doctors in a similar situation, is to put yourself first. I mean we do have a very tough job, you should have your own GP. Seek out some psychiatric help and get things working correctly.
S1: Can I have that file there? Thanks. Did you get those results?
There was a huge stigma around mental illness, be it with the general community. There's a massive stigma within the medical workforce, sometimes perceived as a sign of weakness, that you can't hold things together.
A lot of doctors are very driven, very stubborn probably, afraid to admit that they need help, and think that they can get through everything themselves, because they've got the knowledge to do that sort of diagnosis and management. And I think it's a massive mark of courage to actually admit to someone else that you're not coping and that you think you might need help.