Doctors in Distress -The Charity Championing Change
29 Apr 2021 | Anne Marie Fogarty
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We recently caught up with our friends at Doctors in Distress, a voluntary charity, set up to support healthcare professionals with their work struggles that can often lead to mental health problems.
This entirely voluntary organisation was inspired by Consultant Cardiologist Dr Jagdip Sidhu’s sudden and tragic death in 2018 by suicide. Dr Jagdip Sidhu was a renowned dedicated doctor who worked to the point of burnout, forgoing his well-being to meet his working-life demands. His brother Amandip Sidhu founded Doctors in Distress -a space where medical professionals could talk in confidence about work-related issues affecting their mental health.
Prevention is better than cure
Doctors in Distress very much focuses on the prevention of worsening mental health issues; while they do not provide therapy, they will signpost you to treatment services if necessary. Their social media platform offers several tips on how you can improve your mental health also.
What are the main issues that lead to mental health distress for healthcare professionals?
The healthcare professional landscape can be a stressful place, not helped by Covid-19 and its stress on healthcare workers. This is primarily due to:
- Increased workload by way of staff shortages
- Physical and mental health pressure to cover more hours on pressured rotas
- An increase in burnout and sickness rates because of ever-increasing demand for more hours
- Lack of support and planning around healthcare staff suffering from long covid
- A natural decline in the work-life balance due to increased pressures more so raised by the pandemic.
As a ‘People-First’ solution-driven organisation, we at ProMedical promote finding ‘solutions’ to problems. As we continue supporting the NHS with flexible healthcare workforce solutions, we understand the issues our healthcare workers face daily. The NHS is working tirelessly to address the staffing crises across the UK and is working in collaboration with the flexible workforce industry constantly to resolve the challenges. With the work of great charities such as Doctors in Distress, progress will be made to support all the wonderful healthcare workers across the UK. While the data is concerning at present, championing for positive change must prevail. Opening up conversations, encouraging communication, and raising awareness on the crucial topics relevant to the healthcare workforce can change thinking and therefore action in the long term.
The sad statistics reveal
Doctors in Distress work to prevent suicides within the medical profession by preventing and highlighting the critical causative factors that lead to such despair.
Did you know that doctors are between 2 to 5 times more likely to take their own life than other members of the public? Charities such as Doctors in Distress aim to raise awareness about the harrowing data that exists while providing a safe space for shared experiences.
The staggering data shows that:
- Currently, one doctor dies by suicide approximately every three weeks.
- Doctors are two to five times more likely to die by suicide than the general population.
- Female doctors have higher rates of suicide, two and a half to four times increased rate of suicide compared to an age-matched group.
- Junior doctors were 2.9 times more likely to report a culture of bullying than GPs or Consultants.
In a survey carried out by Doctors in Distress in 2019, the results found many (90%) of the respondents (Doctors) felt the healthcare arena has a culture of viewing excessive stress/workload as the norm. Healthcare has always been a stressful career, with life-saving decisions made daily, but the stress levels experienced at present may well be leading to mental health issues among healthcare workers.
Lack of staffing and extended hours only exacerbate the stress. Staffing and workload are directly related, and if staffing can be improved, it then makes sense that pressure will decrease. A solution-driven model to address staffing; a shift in mindset to more acceptance that healthcare professionals feel stressed and need supportive structures in place. A culture re-examination is required to make things better in the healthcare workplace.
Raising awareness by conversation will dampen stigma over time and remove judgemental attitudes that have no home in modern society.
Doctors who said they were not able to raise their concerns said it was mainly due to:
- A culture of bullying
- Unsupportive management
- They were unable to cause change
- There is a ‘get on with it’ attitude that remains
But despite the negatives, several doctors said they look out for each other and feel they can speak openly about their feelings.
What seems to be required is a space that provides one to one confidential support and reassurance – what healthcare workers want appears to be:
- A place to direct them to external resources/ other areas of help
- A listening ear or peer support network
- Champion for a positive culture change within the profession and NHS concerning workload and stress
Doctors in Distress provides that requirement in an accessible and positive way.
Doctors in Distress provide the much-needed opportunities to share experiences. They provide free, confidential, independently facilitated, virtual group discussions to share your experiences and be empowered by others.
As a society, we need to talk about depression, mental health, and suicide to ensure our work environment is an open, non-judgemental and safe space.
The enemy of progression is fear, and fear disguises itself as a stigma – raising awareness and encouraging discussion around previously taboo topics is a clear path forward away from stigmatisation and into transparency.
To find out more about this progressive charity, click here
If you don’t already, why not follow Doctors in Distress at: