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Let’s get rid of the stigma around mental illness: AMA

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The AMA is developing a campaign to reduce stigma around mental health issues within the medical profession, and is helping develop a range of support services for doctors and medical students experiencing depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.

The AMA made the commitments following a roundtable discussion on the mental health of medical professionals hosted by the Association and mental health campaign and advocacy group beyondblue.

GP Network News reported that AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler and Vice President Dr Stephen Parnis attended the roundtable, at which beyondblue representatives detailed the results of their landmark survey of the mental health of doctors and medical students.

The survey, which drew on responses from 14,000 doctors and medical students, found that many have contemplated suicide or are suffering severe psychological distress and burnout.

In a result with major implications for how workload, occupational demands and resources are managed, the study found 20 per cent of medical students and 10 per cent of doctors had had suicidal thoughts in the preceding 12 months – rates much higher than the broader community – and a quarter of all doctors were likely to have a minor psychiatric disorder, such as mild depression or anxiety.

Significantly, the survey found that although members of the medical profession were far more likely than the general community to be suffering significant psychological distress, they were very reluctant to seek help because of stigma surrounding mental health problems.

As a result of the roundtable, the AMA has committed to developing a campaign to reduce the stigma attached to mental health problems within the medical profession, and to working with the Medical Board of Australia and the Australian Doctors’ Network on the implementation of a range of mental health support services.

In addition, the Association will provide a mental health toolkit accessible through its Dr Portal website. Several resources to assist doctors and medical students struggling with mental health issues are already available through the AMA website at: doctorshealth

Adrian Rollins

 

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