New Doctor’s mental health workshop – tackling crucial conversations

It is fantastic to be running a workshop for RANZCOG addressing doctor’s mental health in one week’s time. I have been advocating in this space since 2003, when armed with the important role of AMA(Vic) President, Doctor-in-Training Subdivision. At the time we were rocked by the news of suicides among our registrar population. In 2003, some of the responses made by consultants included;

Maybe they weren’t cut out for medicine

Maybe they just weren’t ready to face the pressure

Maybe they shouldn’t have sat the exams

Maybe they chose the wrong career

What are the current factors impacting on doctor’s health and wellness?

In 2017, 14 years later, I hear the same thing. I hear that somehow when a tragedy such as suicide occurs, it must be something to do with the doctor’s weakness or vulnerability. Few real conversations have focused on the external factors that push doctors to the edge. Seldom do discussions focus on how doctors reach out for help, are spoken to in the workplace, or suffer when they speak out against intolerable conditions or heartbreaking situations.

Some shifts doctors endure contain enough graphic content that if a movie would attract a R 18+ rating. Doctors are inherently resilient because they turn up again the next day for more. So the conversation we need to have isn’t about resilience or self care. It’s about true advocates standing up for others so we can have safe, compassionate workplaces and rewarding careers.

So, after spending so much time in this space, participating in many committees and panels, speaking at conferences and treating so many doctors and medical students, I am using this opportunity to go straight to the heart of the matter. How to have a crucial conversation. What can happen when conversations go well and what can happen when they don’t. How breaking bad news can lead to suicide or a positive outcome. How third party regulators such as AHPRA and our colleges have conversations with us, whether we are prepared to hear them or not. Knowing when to put our hands up and ask for help and when to keep our opinions to ourselves and go elsewhere for what we need.

Communication is the key.

So, most  of the agenda for the RANZCOG doctor’s health workshop will play out via role plays using the brilliant acting skills of Mr Glen Hancox, professional actor and director of ACTReal. Glen has worked with me for 7 years, and together we have run through hundreds of scenarios to display rather than preach valuable learning. We have coached and trained many doctors in key specialty areas, worked in the corporate world and now developing conversations around doctor’s mental health.

So what sort of conversations will we be examining in depth?

The clinical scenarios I have written to be included in the workshop are based on conversations and interactions I have either witnessed or have been involved with. They will encapsulate the following;

  • doctor’s help seeking behaviour
  • the need for every doctor to have their own GP
  • managing performance rather than being labelled a bully 
  • how to relate to junior colleagues to be the mentor you truly want to be.


All are raw and controversial, designed to be so that we can have real conversations to evoke change. They are also completely fictional (including names).

Keen to read more? Here are the teasers:

  1. That corridor conversation. After a multidisciplinary team meeting,  Dr Anne Salter, a psychiatry registrar working in consultation-liaison psychiatry (wanting to be a perinatal psychiatrist) is approached by Dr Alex Scott, an O&G registrar. Alex is being paged but wants to have a ‘few minutes’ with Anne to ask her opinion about something….
  2. Doctors treating doctors. Dr Alex Scott consults with Dr Simone Davige, a GP in a busy family medical centre. Alex is nervous but after talking to his wife, and trusting in Anne, he decides to open up and be honest about how he is struggling…..
  3. The supervisor asking “So,  how’s it going?”. Dr Ian Anderson is a senior consultant in the gynaecology department. He is well meaning, but quite detached from the issues facing junior doctors. His idea of mentoring a junior doctor is to share his own experiences that he thinks are valuable to hear about rather than listening….
  4. The consultant delivering negative feedback. Dr Peter Richard is a consultant and supervisor. He has had feedback from the college and other peers that his registrar Dr Sophie Donald is ‘not up to scratch’ He hates conflict but knows he has to tell her some hard truths….

By working through these scenarios, and with the guided expertise of Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, and Ms Mayada Dib, we hope to uncover what is at the heart of the matter for doctors who have mental ill-health and need our help. They are, after all, valuable, meaningful people who have devoted their lives to helping others. We owe it to work out how to help them, or not put them in a situation where they are distressed.

And all kudos to RANZCOG who are holding their regional scientific meeting in Albury NSW after they lost a fellow to suicide in Albury in 2016. They have opened the event up to all health professionals regardless of specialty.

If you would like to contribute to the discussion to help our colleagues please register here

See you in Albury,

Best wishes,



Welcome to the website for Dr Helen Schultz

Greetings all,

Welcome to the new website of Dr Helen Schultz, incorporating her private practice of MindAdvocacy, and medical education company CPD Formulations Pty Ltd.

Dr Schultz works in private psychiatry practice in Melbourne, Australia as well as being the founder and director of CPD Formulations Pty Ltd, a medical education company that delivers training to doctors and doctors in training.

Dr Schultz has worked as a coach and mentor of doctors in training and runs courses for psychiatry registrars and international medical graduates, known as Present 2 Pass.

Dr Schultz in now a published author of “How Shrinks Think” launched in November 2014.

Where will @MedicineSocial be held

Greetings all,

Who would have thought when we went back to one of our favourite venues to host @MedicineSocial, we would walk into such a controversy.

For those who know me, I have been running medical education events since 2007, combining my love of clinical medicine with coaching and teaching. As director of CPD Formulations Pty Ltd, I ran a workshop called “Shifting Clocks” sponsored by Servier Laboratories in 2010 at Amora Riverwalk, Richmond, Melbourne. When it came time to expand off what was a highly successful pilot program based on social media and medicine in November 2014 (@SoMebythesea), I went back to the same venue.

At the same time I was confirming the venue, the medical community was opening my eyes,ears and rage to an upcoming tour showcasing what I would have to call a very unethical lady. A lady who expoused for some reason that I am an evil person because I believe in vaccination, I ensure my son is vaccinated, and I also ensure my patients are vaccinated against diseases such as hepatitis B. But she had me at the point where I read feeds and watched videos of her damning my patients who have mental illness as being casualties due to their parents immunising them. With no psychiatric qualifications, she had been able to grab air time and not insinuate but implore that some patients with a mental illness have it because they had been vaccinated.

Gee if only psychiatry was that easy. Of course it isn’t. What I do know about the debate is that children who are not immunised are marginalised in our education systems, unable to make friends, participate in normal activities and more seriously succumb to illnesses I would be so distressed to see my son endure.

So with that knowledge, I contacted Amora Riverwalk and notified them that if they were hosting a gala dinner for these anti-vaccination people, we would not be using their venue. It was a no brainer. I am a mum, a doctor, an educator and above all, pride myself on my ethics. I cannot raise funds to host a venue for doctors in a venue where the gala opening dinner for this group would be held.

So watch this space, I have put my money where my mouth is, spoken on TV, and applaud the first venue in Sydney to see sense. I wonder where @MedicineSocial will roll out. No matter where we are on Saturday 21st March 2015,  I will be surrounded by and educating like minded professional doctors that are highly trained and, above all, care for our patients.

Watch the footage from ABC news here