The mental and physical health of medical students and doctors in Australia is an ongoing concern within the medical profession and community.
Research and media reports have highlighted the high rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, substance use and self-medication throughout the profession. To address these issues, beyondblue developed the beyondblue Doctors' Mental Health Program (bbDMHP), in consultation with key stakeholders from the mental health and medical sectors.
The aim of the bbDMHP is to address the prevalence of depression, anxiety and suicide in Australian medical students and doctors.
Its key objectives are to:
- increase awareness of the issues affecting the mental health of doctors and medical students
- reduce barriers to, and encourage, help-seeking
- promote existing services and support health service employers to protect the mental health of their employees.
Systematic Literature Review
The Advisory Committee's first activity was to oversee a systematic literature review that investigated issues associated with the mental health of medical students and doctors. This review builds on, and extends, the The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) 2004 literature review titled The Conspiracy of Silence: Emotional Health among Medical Practitioners.
Keeping Your Grass Greener
In 2011, beyondblue, in partnership with the Australian Medical Students' Association (AMSA) and the New Zealand Medical Students' Association (NZMSA) developed the original version of Keeping Your Grass Greener, a wellbeing guide for medical students. A hard copy was distributed to all first - and second-year medical students. A second version of the guide was released in 2014.
National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students
In early 2013, a national survey of Australian medical students and doctors was conducted by beyondblue and its key partners. The survey followed on from the findings of The Mental Health of Doctors – A systematic literature review which found that there was limited research examining issues associated with the mental health of medical students and doctors that is specific to the Australian context.
The key objectives of the survey were to:
- better understand the issues associated with the mental health of Australian medical students and doctors
- increase awareness across the medical profession and broader community of issues associated with the mental health of medical students and doctors
- inform the development of mental health services, programs and support for medical students and doctors to address the prevalence of depression and anxiety.
Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee (MUHREC) provided ethics approval for the survey. Results from the survey were released on 8 October 2013 at a launch held at the RACGP in Melbourne.
Since launching the survey findings in October 2013, beyondblue has promoted the key findings through conferences and other events.
If you would like to apply to access the raw data set for research purposes please complete the request to access survey data set form
Roundtable: The mental health of doctors and medical students
In June 2014, beyondblue partnered with the AMA to stage a roundtable of leaders within the medical profession in Melbourne, to commence the development of an action plan to improve the mental health of the medical profession. The event aimed to encourage the medical profession to take a leadership role in this area.
Working Dinner: The mental health of Victorian Doctors
In June 2015 beyondblue hosted a Working Dinner attended by leaders within the medical profession to discuss the mental health of Victorian doctors. Speakers at the event included The Hon. Jill Hennessy MP, The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC, Ms Georgie Harman, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal AO, Ms Shelly Park (Monash Health CEO), Ms Jessica Dean (past President of AMSA), Prof. David Clarke and Mr Graeme Campbell (Vice-President of Royal Australasian College of Surgeons). At the dinner, beyondblue highlighted the need for urgent, coordinated action to promote the mental health of doctors, and reduce their risk of suicide.
Victorian Hospitals Workshop on mentally healthy workplaces
In December 2015 beyondblue held a half-day workshop about creating mentally healthy workplaces specifically tailored for Victorian hospitals. The workshop was hosted by Austin Hospital and opened with presentations from the beyondblue CEO, Georgie Harman and Austin Hospital CMO, Dr John Ferguson. The interactive structure of the workshop encouraged participants to consider the current mental health challenges facing hospitals and collectively identify practical actions to address these.