Campaign aims to reduce stigma of mental ill health in health professionals

The Doctors' Support Network has launched a campaign aimed at reducing the stigma attached to mental ill health in healthcare professions.

The &me campaign, launched in conjunction with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, hopes to encourage senior doctors, dentists, pharmacists and veterinary surgeons who have suffered from mental health problems and recovered to come forward and share their stories.

The Doctors' Support Network hopes this will help reduce the stigma associated with mental ill health in these professions and show that a mental health problem does not exclude people from having successful careers.

The launch of the campaign comes as the GP Health service - the first ever national service to offer GPs confidential help with depression, stress, addiction and other mental health issues - opens its doors to doctors across the country.

Doctors' Support Network vice chair Dr Louise Freeman, who devised the campaign, said she hoped talking openly about mental ill health would help to normalise the issue and remove barriers to people seeking help at an earlier stage.

GP mental health

‘In medicine much good work is being done by medical schools to encourage junior doctors to look after themselves, but they look up and see no evidence that successful medical leaders have suffered from mental health problems,’ Dr Freeman said.

‘I hope that the &me campaign can help to address this by encouraging senior health professionals who are currently well but have experienced mental health problems to disclose that they have been there themselves.’

Dr Freeman said her own experience of mental ill health and how it was handled by her employing trust at the time made her think that doctors with mental health problems were in the minority and ‘it was probably our own fault' if they became ill.

‘Both of these thoughts I now know to be completely wrong. The incidence of mental health problems is one in four in any one year and is often higher for doctors who are often slower to seek help than non-medics.

‘The good news is that well supported doctors have excellent treatment outcomes.’

The campaign will be sharing stories on social media using the hashtag #AndMe. Healthcare professionals who are interested in joining the campaign should contact Dr Freeman at vicechair@dsn.org.uk to discuss the personal impact of being involved.

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