RACGP aims to break down the stigma around mental health in doctors

Just in time for Crazy Socks 4 Docs day today [4 June], the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is calling for changes to mandatory reporting laws that discourage GPs from seeking healthcare.

Crazy Socks 4 Docs day, started by Dr Geoffrey Toogood in 2017, addresses mental health stigma among health practitioners and according to the RACGP it’s a timely push for change, as the Covid-19 pandemic and national vaccine rollout have made this year particularly challenging for GPs.

Over half of GPs surveyed for the RACGP’s 2020 Health of Nation report indicated at least one negative impact to their wellbeing during the pandemic, with one in four reporting a deterioration in their mental health.

RACGP President Dr Karen Price says doctors were not immune from mental health issues.

“GPs have been on the frontline managing the pandemic and now the vaccine rollout, we need to make sure that they can take care of their mental health too,” says Dr Price.

“Doctors have the right to receive confidential treatment like any other professional, without fear of repercussions to their medical registration.

“The RACGP has long been a strong advocate against laws requiring mandatory reporting by treating practitioners because they discourage doctors from seeking the healthcare they need for fear of being reported. These laws need to change now.”

The RACGP has been calling for exemptions for health practitioners from reporting doctors under their care since the inception of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law) in 2009. This model has been adopted by Western Australia.

Minor amendments to mandatory reporting laws were introduced in 2019, along with updated guidelines aiming to reduce confusion surrounding requirements.

The RACGP President is also encouraging GPs to connect with their colleagues on Crazy Socks 4 Docs day.

“I’ll be putting on my crazy socks, and I hope to see a lot of other crazy socks on the day on social media and in real life,” she says.

“This is our day to create a safe place to have a conversation about mental health and wellbeing – because we need to keep fighting the stigma around doctors’ mental health, and to make it ok for a doctor not to be ok.”

“While there are differences in the scale of mental health issues and the pandemic is causing extra stress and anxiety for many, everyone has the need for a ‘mental health toolkit’.

“Social connectedness, exercise, adequate sleep, avoiding over work, taking time out for favourite activities, meditation, a healthy diet, your own GP, and even a pair of brightly coloured odd socks can all help,” says Dr Price.

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