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Share your lived experience as a GP providing mental health care

Friday 06, Mar 2020

I've been so impressed by the work of our colleagues in reaching out to doctors. There are so many initiatives from helplines (DHAS, Drs4Drs) to resource portals, to peer groups. But I've just heard there are millions of dollars of government money being poured into helping health professionals cope. How? By building another website and offering e-health, and building some more resources available online. I'm not sure this is where we need to offer services.

It's not that I doubt good intent, but the organisations involved like Phoenix are good at PTSD. Others are good at managing depression. Don't tell me they have "evidence-based" therapy for health care workers in a pandemic because I bet they don't. They are extrapolating their evidence from elsewhere, which might work (or not).

What I do know is that right now a lot of us need connection. Not more words, guidelines, platitudes, or things we should be doing for self-care. We need someone to listen to us and absorb some of our fear and acknowledge despair, hopelessness, guilt, grief and loss. And just accept that for what it is: an understandable response to an extraordinary stress. Some of us may get that from articles or peer groups, but others want to hide somewhere and tell someone who cares just how scared we are. So, as GPs, I think we can do that. 

I've been told clinical services are not what doctors need. I disagree. I'm damned sure some doctors need the same counselling we offer others. 

In response, I've set up a site called The Doctor's Clinic — a series of links to doctors who offer telehealth to other doctors, and it links straight to their clinics so we meet the information security and clinical governance requirements doctors deserve. Details on the site. 

I suspect the ED doctor, the infectious diseases consultant or the rural doctor needs us to care for them. Just them. Even if it's only for an hour. And if they have their own GP that does Telehealth, that's great. But if they don't, I want a safety net. Because I want to provide a service where shame goes to die. 

Comments on the site are welcome: it's been four days, so aiming for nimble and available, rather than perfect at this point. You are welcome to refer people into the site, or direct to one of us. At the moment there are six of us, but there are 30 volunteers waiting to have their details published. I haven't yet worked out how to make it obvious who is available when, but I will work on this. 

Let me know if this is helpful, and whether its appropriate to link it up with your services 

 Link:  GPMHSC invitation to share your insights

Kind regards, 
Louise Stone (ASPM Member)

Mary Smyth, Secretary ASPM