On 31 January we and the Doctors’ Support Network (DSN) are marking the first anniversary of our joint ‘&me’ campaign, which aims to tackle mental health stigma in the health professions by encouraging prominent members to speak out about their own experiences. The Doctors’ Support Network provides peer support for doctors and medical students with mental health concerns.
&me was launched this time last year at the Palace of Westminster at an event sponsored by Kevan Jones MP (Labour, North Durham,) who has spoken about his own experiences with depression.
Overall eleven &me ambassadors have volunteered their own stories with mental ill-health:
- Dr Louise Freeman, tribunal member and vice chair DSN
- Dr Angelika Luehrs, consultant psychiatrist and co-chair DSN
- Dr Jonathan Richardson, group medical director for community services, Northumberland Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust
- Dr Caroline Reed O’Connor, a senior trainee psychiatrist and psychotherapist
- David Bartram, RCVS Council member
- Malcolm Kinnear, consultant psychiatrist and Honorary Senior Clinical Teacher at the University of Dundee
- Rob Pettitt, Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Orthopaedics, University of Liverpool
- Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, consultant clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and supervisor
- Dr Cathy Wield, emergency medicine doctor and author
- Dr Susan Atcheson, senior GP
- Steve Carter, Director at Priory Veterinary Surgeons
Meanwhile, a number of &me ambassadors will be taking part in an ‘&me live’ session at BSAVA Congress, from 5-8 April 2018 in Birmingham, providing a short overview of their story before taking questions from the audience. The session will take place from 8.30 to 10.10am on Saturday 7 April and will be open to all those attending Congress.
Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO and Mind Matters Director, said: “The feedback our &me ambassadors have received is truly heartening. Steve Carter, for example, had both an ex-student and colleague comment on his story thanking him for all he’s done, while a Facebook post about Rob Pettitt reached nearly 25,000 people. The campaign highlights how it is possible to recover from mental ill-health and flourish in your career, with the aim of encouraging those at the start of their mental ill-health experience to seek appropriate help, whether that is something profession-specific, such as Vetlife or DSN, or their GP.”
Louise Freeman, Co-Chair of the DSN, added: “Many healthcare professionals face similar pressures that can lead to mental ill-health, including long hours, intense pressure, and the nature of the job which requires practitioners to constantly provide care for others, without necessarily recognising the need for self-care at the same time. A recurring theme that we’ve seen from these ambassadors’ stories has been that they drew on support from friends and family, and we really hope that this campaign encourages other professionals to seek help if they feel they are struggling.”
The campaign is interested in hearing from not only doctors and veterinary surgeons but also nurses, veterinary nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who want to open up about their experiences of mental ill-health. To participate in the campaign, please email Dr Louise Freeman on firstname.lastname@example.org.