#83 Mental health awareness – not just one day a year


13 June 2019

On Friday 7 June, healthcare professionals and their supporters across the world posted photos of their colourful and mismatched socks on social media to raise awareness of the mental health of doctors and health practitioners. The aim of Crazy Socks 4 Docs Day is to normalise conversation about mental health and increase psychological safety for health professionals discussing their own mental health.

There is a great deal of stigma in relation to mental health in our society and this is exacerbated for those in professions such as medicine, which are held in high regard. There is an unspoken rule that doctors do not get sick and in particular must not experience mental illness. Fortunately, we are starting to see a change in attitudes and there are some doctors who are willing to make themselves vulnerable by talking publicly about their mental health.

In addition to stigma, other barriers for doctors include fears in relation to mandatory reporting. Although the bar for mandatory reporting is quite high, this is not well understood and some doctors will not seek help, as they fear losing their registration. Conversely, some treating doctors report a colleague unnecessarily, even when the public is not at risk of harm.

The highly competitive nature of medicine also makes it hard for doctors to speak openly about something they consider a weakness, as they fear that they will not be successful in their profession if others know their flaws.

To counter these negative attitudes towards discussion about mental health, the spirit of Crazy Socks 4 Docs must continue throughout the year. Some tips to assist in open conversations about mental health include:

  1.        Create opportunities to have genuine conversations with your colleagues.
  2.        Support your colleagues in practical ways such as buying your team a coffee once a week.
  3.        If you observe a colleague with a heavy workload working late, offer your help.
  4.        Make sure your team members are all able to take their meal break.
  5.        If a colleague is going through a difficult time, be there for them, ask how they are feeling and listen. They will value your presence.


Kay Dunkley
Doctor Wellbeing Program
AMA Victoria


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