Taking it for the team

I used this bold saying for a blog post that grabbed a lot of attention. You can see it here.

I have been quoted in the Age today and the Sydney Morning Herald, expressing my utter sadness and helpleness to hear the news through the grapevine that 4 of our best and brightest, 3 psych registrars and and intern doing a psych rotation have passed away ‘unexpectedly’ in the last 2 weeks.

As a fellow of the RANZCP I have not been forwarded any correspondence from my professional governing body. I heard about these deaths via friends and registrars I know and mentor through the courses I have run since 2008. I have met over 200 psych trainees across Australia and NZ, see a lot of international medical graduates and hear how they are going as they pass through their training.

I completely understand that unless a full physical and psychological autopsy is performed on each person, we will not know exactly why they may have died. I admit I don’t know the names of 3 of the doctors or if I may have known them.

This is what I know:

My heart breaks because I knew one through psych training and saw it on Facebook. I remember him to be a vivacious, caring, smart, down to earth doctor who was very good at internal medicine as well, and conducted himself in a very inclusive manner, always helping others. I know he would have made a top psychiatrist. I know he was only months away from doing that.

I  also know as a recent trainee myself that when bad things happen, there is no room to step down and get the help you need. All the verbal corrspondence and speeches about offering ‘support’ will not give a trainee permission to stay home, bawl their eyes out, question their own stuff and be totally distracted from their daily tasks. Especially those who worked alongside these poor doctors and may have known they were struggling and wondered what else they could have done.

I know that this week marks a new rotation and with these deaths there will be no locums appointed to fill their allocated positions. Those who will be expected to pick up the load will invariably be the same doctors who have been rocked by the news, including registrars and consultant psychiatrists.

I know that on Sunday when I opened my doors at 394 Church St Richmond those who came felt like me.

I know that as a junior reg I learnt the hard way what can happen when you speak up and speak out when you think things aren’t right.

I know I learnt as a senior reg to seek out those I trusted who have remained my closest and dearest friends in my training, and only confide in them.

I know that if I was sitting my college exams in an environment where I was examined within my own networks where  I may have been criticised as being a ‘trouble maker’ when I advocated, I would expect to fail and my anxiety would be through the roof.

I know other professions feel like us. That’s why we have bi-national examinations where we know we won’t run into an examiner who know us, so therefore we can expect to be treated objectively so we can get on with the task.

I know I have a brilliant GP who gets having a doctor as a patient and I trust her with everything. I see her regularly. Even this Friday actually.

I know that all week I am so saddened yet I only knew one and a long time ago, because I can’t help reflecting about my journey as a psych reg. The journey I wrote about in ‘How Shrinks Think’ The journey that has taken me a lot of time and reflection to come to terms with.

I know there is a life after training, and it is a wonderful life. I love being a psychiatrist and using my skills to help my patients good times and bad, with the support of my peers and supervisors when times get tough.

I want psych trainees to know that I am available on (03) 9428 8321 and implore you to take time out if you need it. See your GP. If you don’t know of any that are great at being doctors to doctors, ask me. Do it for your patients as well, who currently need your utmost attention and care. The system can work itself out. You have my permission.

Please take care,





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