Tuesday 23 January 2018

Alarming increase in number of Irish doctors seeking help for stress and mental health issues

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

THERE has been an alarming increase in the number of Irish doctors seeking help for stress, strain and mental health issues.

The revelation came in the wake of two young Irish interns taking their own lives - a tragedy which one respected doctor admitted "rocked" the entire profession.

Both young doctors took their own lives in 2013.

Now, junior doctors warned that shifts can last up to 36 hours with Ireland's acute healthcare system under unprecedented pressure and patient expectations also at an all-time high.

A major conference, staged by University College Cork's Medical Society, yesterday focused on the personal health challenges now facing Irish doctors.

The event took place as the Medical Council's health committee (MCHC) confirmed that there has been a spike in the number of Irish doctors coming forward to seek help for personal medical and mental health issues.

In many cases, the unrelenting stress and strain of working in overcrowded Irish hospitals is a key factor.

In 2014, 43 doctors were being supported by the MCHC for various health issues.

However, that had soared to 51 doctors last year, a hike of 18pc.

Anecdotal evidence is that the number will rise again this year.

Junior doctors, in particular, are concerned at the unrelenting physical and mental strain they are being placed under in Irish hospitals now witnessing record numbers of patients on trolleys.

They launched the '24 Hours Is Enough' campaign three years ago - but there is concern that shifts still involve some junior doctors working as much as 70 hours plus in a single week.

Under a 12 year old EU directive, no European worker should work more than 48 hours a week.

Dr. Anthony O'Connor, a gastroenterologist in Tallaght Hospital, stressed that working within Ireland's acute healthcare system was "increasingly and intensely stressful."

Dr O'Connor personally knew both interns who took their own lives and said the tragedies had "shocked their colleagues and rocked the profession."

But he said that while some might take a negative view of the increasing number of doctors now seeking help for medical and mental health issues, the positive aspect was that people were coming forward and admitting they needed support.

"It is very important that people are now willing to open up and talk about it," he said.

Dr O'Connor said Ireland has suffered over the years from a "silent epidemic of undiagnosed, untreated depression amongst our colleagues."

The UCC conference, entitled 'A Doctor's Toughest Diagnosis', will also feature submissions by Prof Jim Lucey, Prof Ted Dinan, Dr Margaret O'Rourke, Dr Zeshan Qureshi and Dr Blánaid Hayes.

Anyone who is affected by issues in this article can contact Samaritans Ireland on Lo-call 1850 60 90 90

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