The national depression initiative, beyondblue, will launch a new program this month to help doctors manage anxiety and depression.

The beyondblue national Doctors Mental Health Program will develop a suite of self-help tools and education programs and will explore targeted services for doctors, such as online consultations.

Beyondblue Clinical Advisor, Associate Professor Michael Baigent, told InSight a meta-analysis undertaken by beyondblue on doctors’ mental health will also be released later this month.

He said the data on suicide were particularly worrying.

“The data show that, overall, doctors have higher suicide rates than the general population,” he said.

While the risk of suicide was only slightly higher for men, he said, it was two-and-a-half times higher for women.

The meta-analysis also showed the prevalence of depression in the profession was similar to the general population, but that doctors are less likely to seek treatment, and fear treatment could compromise their medical registration.

An article published recently in the MJA backs the beyondblue findings. It showed the main work-related factor linked to psychiatric illness among doctors was being faced with a current medicolegal matter.

The study also found that two in three doctors had experienced a medicolegal matter at some time, and 14% had a current matter, illustrating the magnitude of the problem.

Beyondblue has set up an advisory committee chaired by former Australian Medical Association president, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, to guide development of the program.

“We want to bring attention to the ways to get treatment and find ways to support that treatment”, he said. “That includes advocacy around major issues like mandatory reporting.”

Dr Jill Gordon, president of the Doctors’ Health Advisory Service (NSW), said beyondblue had been successful at reducing stigma around depression and applauded its move to extend this to doctors.

She noted that depression is especially common among young doctors and the Advisory Service is developing an online self-assessment tool with this in mind.


MJA 2010; 193:161-166.

Posted 23 August, 2010


One thought on “New program targets doctors’ mental health

  1. Rob Scott says:

    I’m a second year medical student at UQ, and I have depression. I’ve had it for ~10 years, and medical school has put more pressure on me which always exacerbates symptoms. I know of many doctors who have depression/anxiety and not all are treated (many are tho). I am thinking about trying to develop a system/advocacy group for medical students living with depression, and ways they can talk to doctors who live with this disease. This is because many people think that depression is something that will stop us from becoming good doctors. I feel it is in fact the contrary, that the personal perspective and compassion/empathy engendered by this experience makes us much BETTER doctors, and this view is shared by many.

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