Socking it to depression


Physicians heal thyselves: Dr Geoff Toogood wants doctors to open up and talk to each other about stresses and strains felt in the medical profession. Picture: Gary Sissons

DOCTORS need to start helping themselves as well as others.

That’s the message a Frankston Hospital cardiologist hopes to spread by encouraging medical profession colleagues to show support for the all-too-often hidden sufferers of depression in their ranks.

Dr Geoff Toogood hopes a “crazysocks4docs” day last Thursday (1 June) when medical colleagues wore bright and “crazy” socks will become an annual event to let doctors, nurses and anyone working in the at times highly stressful medical profession to seek help if they ever feel depressed.

Dr Toogood had the idea for the crazy socks day partly from personal experience when he did not feel too good and faced a bout of severe depression in 2013.

The doctor said he had suicidal thoughts because he wanted mental anguish and pain to end despite not wanting to die.

“I think we’re bad at looking after our own health. We’re slow at recognising problems,” Dr Toogood said.

He decided to launch the crazysocks4docs initiative after he accidentally wore odd socks — his dog stole one — and colleagues asked him if he “was OK”.

It made him realise people, despite often being well meaning, do not know when someone is struggling with “invisible” depression.

“I’m trying to break down the stigma doctors can face when they have mental health issues and it’s about asking them to get help and showing support for them,” Dr Toogood said.

“We lose colleagues across the country to suicide regularly.”

Career discrimination and being judged as “weak” by some colleagues often stop doctors and medical professionals seeking help with sometimes fatal consequences, according to Dr Toogood.

He says understanding of mental health problems afflicting the medical profession “is inching forward but it’s not fantastic”.

The doctor also hopes to partly reclaim the word “crazy” from meaning “mentally disturbed”.

“I tried to come up with a fun idea to unite doctors across the country and in the past, ‘crazy’ meant ‘fun’.”

The Beaumaris resident has worked at Frankston Hospital for more than 20 years.

He says he now feels “really good” but is also always aware of trying to be in “the green zone” or “amber zone” instead of slipping into “the red zone” of severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

“Now I’m much more aware if I’m struggling or tired. I’ll make sure I do all the things to help me make sure I don’t go down that path again.”

And seek help from others instead of “bottling it all up inside”.

  • Support and information about suicide prevention can be obtained at Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 6 June 2017


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