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Doctors’ Mental Health and Suicide Risk: Structural Risk and Resilience Factors

Flinders University, 2020

Researcher: Professor Paul Ward

Between 2001-12, 79 doctors committed suicide in Australia. 

A national survey found that doctors have a higher risk of psychological distress and suicide than other professionals and the general population, with other mental health conditions such as burnout, depression and anxiety also common. 

However, seeking and accessing mental health services remains a problem for doctors, partly due to stigma, workplace culture, professional culture and concerns of confidentiality and registration.

While self-help and anonymous support are important, such approaches place ultimate responsibility for mental health on the individual doctor. Structural risk factors often remain unaddressed, despite evidence that they pose a major threat to mental health. 

Prof Ward will investigate three structural influences – professional culture, organisational climate, and health service context – to identify risk and resilience factors and understand how to translate them into actionable strategies to protect and enhance doctors’ mental health and reduce suicide risk.