Suicide rates for young female doctors cause alarm

Tash’s depression and death by suicide are not unusual among doctors in training, according to those trying to better support them.

Psychiatrist Professor Patrick McGorry, executive director of Orygen Youth Health and co-author of a 2018 paper on depression and suicide in the medical professionHe said suicide rates for young women were rising much faster than other groups, “and female doctors are a subset of that.”

Professor Patrick McGorry says the intergenerational cycle of 'traumatic' years in which young doctors are unable to live balanced lives must be broken.

Professor Patrick McGorry says the intergenerational cycle of ‘traumatic’ years in which young doctors are unable to live balanced lives must be broken.

“The medical and law professions are very harsh on women and people in the apprenticeship model,” she said. “It is the culture of the profession. [Suicide] It’s been a problem, but only recently have people been able to talk.”

He said the early years of a young doctor’s career were often traumatic as they struggled to balance long working hours and the need for intensive study. “[They] just not live, maybe, 20 years,” he said. That intergenerational cycle must be broken if the mental health of young doctors is to be improved, McGorry said.


Dr. Tahnee Bridson, a psychiatric registrar who founded a peer support group, hand to hand, He said Tash Thamanason’s suicide and other tragedies in the industry weighed on doctors in training.

“When things like this happen, it really surprises everyone,” he said. “You are always waiting for the next person who is going to end her life, there are so many pressures and so many stresses.

“I am not saying that suicide is caused especially by medicine, it is [professional stress-based mental health issues] It doesn’t end in suicide for all of us, but there is clearly something wrong with our profession, and many of us are suffering in silence.”

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There are “at least a few” suicides by young doctors each year, but the issue is “often swept under the rug and not given the attention it deserves,” he said.

“People aren’t listening to the problem and putting money where it’s needed, it’s like [they think] ‘Oh, we’ll get more staff; we’ll magically make the staff show up,’” she said.

The director of the prevocational training and education group at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dr. Jessica Green, confirmed that there was often a spike in anxiety among junior doctors around the time applications for specialized training were due. She said it was also important to reduce excessive overtime demands and end bullying to protect the mental health of those who work in medicine.

“Beyond Blue research has shown that all young doctors experience a high level of mental health problems compared to the general population, even if you compare them to other professionals in a somewhat demanding position, there is something very unique about the medical environment. that creates this situation. ” said Green, an emergency room doctor.

“We know that women tend to be more affected than men…recognizing the problem is a big part of [addressing] that.”

St Vincent’s provides mentors to all mentees, offering peer support and ‘mental health first aid’ instruction to help colleagues identify distress in others.


Indrani Thamanason, who is walking the Coast Trek to raise funds for Beyond Bluewants more supervision and mentoring for junior doctors.

Dr. Hashim Abdeen, President of the AMA Council of Doctors in Trainingagrees more needs to be done to support doctors like Tash Port.

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“There is a lot of talk about well-being… but we have not yet seen tangible changes [to facilitate] people who are not affected by burnout and young doctors contemplating suicide,” he said.

Abdeen’s group is lobbying for legislative change that would require hospital boards to protect the psychosocial safety of health workers (as South Australia has recently introduced); for psychological safety to be integrated into hospital accreditation standards; and for a coordinated system-wide approach.

If you or someone you know needs help, call Life line 131 114, or beyond the blue 1300 224 636.

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