RURAL doctors will soon be surveyed to help address the mental health issues facing the medical profession.
The survey is part of beyondblue’s Doctors’ Mental Health Program and aims to reach all rural doctors and medical students to determine the risks they face.
A 2010 literature review of the mental health of doctors found suicide rates for male doctors were 26 per cent above the general population rate and 146 per cent above for female doctors.
Tamworth GP and acting director of the University Department of Rural Health, Dr Jenny May, said there was a high incidence of mental illness among the general Australian population, so it was no surprise doctors were also affected to a significant extent.
She said doctors also experienced added stressors, including dealing with people in crisis regularly and working in an often professionally isolating job.
Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine academic director and member of beyondblue’s expert reference group, Associate Professor Lucie Walters, said doctors and medical students were at risk of assuming they should be in control of their own health.
Dr May said this survey, and the understanding of the prevalence of mental health issues among the medical community that would result from it, would help in the development of well-targeted strategies to combat these issues.
“The first and most important thing to recognise is when people are suffering from mental health issues, so they can get timely help,” Dr May said.
The stigma surrounding mental health, embarrassment, and the potential impacts on their career and patients are recognised as barriers to doctors seeking help with their own mental health.