‘Apply your own oxygen mask before assisting others...’
As doctors, helping our patients stay healthy is our top priority. It’s important to do the same for our own physical and mental health and wellbeing.
The figures around doctors’ mental health and resilience continue to be alarming. New Zealand has a tragic record of suicide, depression and anxiety—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 just the two we know about).
The job we do can be highly rewarding, but day-to-day it can take us to dark, sad and stressful places. We need the strength to move on, the peer support to pull us through, and the flexibility in our workplaces and training programmes to give us space and time to work things out.
Not all stress is negative (and it is sometimes necessary), but 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 try and do this for our patients and should try just as hard to do this for our colleagues.
YES: Green light
Maintain your health and wellbeing so you continue feeling good. There are lots of simple things you can do to stay mentally and physically well. Check out some of the suggestions on these pages
MAYBE: Orange light
Some stress is normal and, in some cases, necessary. Chronic stress is not normal and can negatively affect your health and wellbeing. Get to know your warning signs and have a look at the options for help and support on these pages.
NO: Red light
Don’t suffer in silence—ask for help. And if you believe that one of your colleagues is struggling, speak up. We try to do this for our patients, it’s the least we can do for ourselves and our colleagues.
As well as the info on this site, check out:
- Keeping your Grass Greener | Although aimed at med students, this guide is still very relevant for doctors and well worth a read. It contains articles by leading experts and covers stress management and mental resilience.
- www.depression.org.nz | A useful website with a self-test to help you recognise signs of depression and options for support and treatment.
- Fatigue and Shiftwork training | All 21 DHBs and the RDA have agreed to provide free online training on fatigue and shift work. There is real benefit in learning about fatigue and how to better manage shift work and rosters. Email your RMO office if you want to do this course.
- www.jmohealth.org.au | A site on health and wellbeing for trainee doctors, with self assessment tools, personal stories, advice and information. An initiative of the Doctors’ Health Advisory Service (NSW), the Medical Benevolent Association, the AMA Doctors in Training Group, the Resident Medical Officers’ Associations, the Australian Medical Students’ Association, the Clinical Education and Training Institute and the NSW Employee Assistance Program with funding from the Medical Board of NSW (2009).