A pawfect visit to raise awareness

Four people standing in a garden with two dogs on leads. A man holds two smaller dogs.
Dr Liam Bibo and Dr Alexandra Richards and the Delta Society volunteers with Pink, Pixie, Dylan and Knoxy.
September 24, 2018

Doctors at Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) were treated to a visit by therapy dogs in a wellbeing exercise.  

The afternoon was organised by the Stanley Medical Officer Society’s welfare representative Dr Alexandra Richards who said the event was created to address the mental health of doctors.

“We want to raise awareness and help destigmatise mental health disorders in medical culture,” Dr Richards said.

“Recent studies report almost 29 per cent of trainee doctors have depressive symptoms, with one in five reporting suicidal thoughts over the previous year, and 40 to 50 per cent experiencing emotional exhaustion and symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.

“These rates are significantly higher than those of other professional groups in Australia.

“The visit by therapy dogs was a good opportunity for us to take some time for ourselves and also start a conversation amongst our peers.”

Dr Richards encourages doctors or other staff experiencing symptoms such as increased burnout, poor self-care, consistent low mood, social exclusion, low energy, cynicism, poor work engagement or anyone who is acting differently to talk to someone.

“This is not a rare state to be in and talking about it not only gets the person help but assists our culture in normalising these discussions,” Dr Richards said.

“Mental health is affected by biology and circumstance. Working in a stressful environment with long hours is the circumstance. Consistent stress, poor sleep and diet is the biology.

“It is not a weakness, it is the outcome. Be mindful of this, take your breaks and watch your wellbeing.

“It takes more courage to fix a problem than to ignore it.”