Doctors in Distress was founded by Amandip Sidhu after the tragic death of his cardiologist brother, Dr Jagdip Sidhu, in 2018. Jagdip worked to the point of burnout and felt that he only had one way to escape his suffering. He didn’t feel he was able to ask for help.
Being unwell does not sit well for doctors. Since antiquity they have been encouraged to ‘heal thyself’ and the belief that they can do this, and that they are somehow impervious to illness runs deep and creates a powerful barrier to seeking help. Of course, being human means that doctors suffer from the same illnesses as the patients they treat.
Doctors do not wear magic white coats, and whilst protective personal equipment (PPE) might have offered some protection from Covid-19, doctors were still amongst the first to become infected and suffer from the consequences of the infection.
We have often heard that staff feel that they will not progress in their career if they ask for help.
We provide support to all healthcare professionals through confidential support groups facilitated by a trained professional. These give healthcare professionals the space to share, talk and be listened to. These groups are not therapy but give space for people to release the pressures they may be facing.
Previous experience shows that therapeutic spaces such as these help to reduce burn-out and improve access to other support systems. They also allow the doctor to become the patient, something that typically doctors have found particularly difficult. Sharing helps create a bond between peers and assists doctors to develop self-awareness and insight as well as showing them they are not alone.
This is not just the case for doctors. We have found that with our groups for nurses, the benefits have been the same with participants describing their relief at being listened to and understood.