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Tuesday 26 March 2019

Hospital offers counselling over doctor suicides


Tallaght supporting workers in wake of tragic death of two junior staff in past six months

TALLAGHT Hospital has offered counselling services to staff after two junior doctors took their own lives in the past six months, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The tragic death of two young doctors, who were thought to be in their late 20s and early 30s, is sure to raise concerns about the high-pressure and stressful work environments in the country's hospitals.

Meanwhile, doctor support services have warned that the deaths are not isolated incidents and urged medics to seek help rather than self-treat when they are sick.

Chairwoman of the Sick Doctor Scheme, Dr Ide Delargy, said: "Doctors don't tend to come forward for treatment at the moment. They tend to self-treat and self-medicate and self-refer.

"Then, unfortunately, they try to deal with the problems on their own and in isolation and then you have tragedies like what you had recently.

"And unfortunately these are not isolated incidents. They are recent but we would know of quite a few other cases."

Both doctors, who were at senior house officer (SHO) grade, had been working in Tallaght Hospital for a number of months before they took their own lives.

One of the two, a female doctor in her late 20s, worked as a medical SHO in the neurology department. She died last weekend after she was rushed to the hospital where she worked.

The young doctor had taken sick leave from work at the time of her death and had been living near the hospital.

She was brought by paramedics to her place of work last weekend and was treated by colleagues in the hospital's emergency department.

There was a service in the hospital during the week to mark the death of the young woman. There is also an occupational health service to offer support to staff.

In July, a surgical SHO who had just finished his rotation in Tallaght Hospital was found dead a week into his new job in a Co Cork hospital.

After his tragic death Tallaght Hospital held a fundraiser in his memory and the proceeds went to suicide charity Pieta House.

CEO of Pieta House, Joan Freeman, said that because doctors are in a caring profession they may be too embarrassed to seek assistance from others.

"I think that doctors may be more reluctant than others to seek help because theirs is a caring profession. They may feel ashamed about admitting they need help since they are responsible for taking care of others," she said.

A 2006 Oireachtas Health Committee report on the high level of suicide in Ireland highlighted the medical profession as a sector at an increased risk of suicide.

It stated: "There are also well recognised occupations that are at increased risk of suicide such as doctors, vets and those in the armed and police forces.

"The relatively easy access to lethal means of suicide of these occupations is likely to be the important risk factor rather than the actual occupations themselves."

Tallaght Hospital said: "Out of respect for the families we will not be commenting."

Sunday Independent

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