A healthy anaesthetist means a healthier patient, which is why the topic of mental health among this “high risk” group of doctors is being brought out in the open.
A life-sized inflatable elephant has been installed inside the Brisbane convention centre – an initiative of the Australian Private Hospitals Association – to encourage physicians to openly discuss mental health and wellbeing with their colleagues while attending the Australian New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) annual scientific meeting.
”The elephant in the room is something we can all identify with and it’s so important that anaesthetists and other medical professionals discuss their mental wellbeing on a regular basis,” said anesthetist and meeting convenor Dr Bridget Effeney.
Dr Effeney said the emotional welfare of anaesthetists, while a sensitive subject for some, should be discussed openly in forums such as the annual scientific meeting.
“We know that anaesthetists are a high risk group and yes, this is a novel way of approaching the issue but it also an appropriate opportunity to raise awareness in the profession,” she explained.
A beyondblue report released in 2013 showed doctors reported substantially higher rates of psychological distress and attempted suicide compared to both the Australian population and other Australian professionals.
The most common source of work stress reported by doctors related to the need to balance work and personal responsibilities (26.8 per cent).
The high-pressure work of an anaesthetist combined with busy personal lives and individual performance expectations is the likely reason they are at high risk of mental health issues and suicide, Dr Eeffney told AAP
“You do have the life of your patients in your hands and you have to be at all times prepared for the unexpected.
“When things go badly wrong it really is badly wrong,” she said.
ANZCA President Professor David A Scott said the benefits of openly discussing health and welfare issues in the profession should not be overlooked.
”By looking after the health and welfare of practitioners we will ensure we have healthier patients,” he said.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.
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