Start The Conversation

A lot of people are uncomfortable reaching out and opening up about life’s challenges. Most of the time we can’t fix someone else’s problems, but we can always be there for them. Sometimes listening is the most helpful thing you can do.

Many people find it difficult talking about mental health. This is especially true in the demanding and competitive profession of surgery. Breaking down the stigma attached to it is something we can all try and do, and the easiest way to do that is to simply start the conversation.

Workplaces must do what they can to safeguard the mental wellbeing of clinicians, but we all have a part to play. If you think a friend or colleague may be struggling then there is no harm in reaching out. There’s no right or wrong way to start a conversation.

And if it’s you that’s going through a hard time, know that talking through your troubles can help.

Ask a Colleague

Everyone experiences stress and stress can be healthy. It can make us perform, complete tasks, and think more clearly. It is part of the job description when you work in medicine. But chronic stress can harm us both physically and emotionally, which is not fair on our patients or ourselves. 

If you feel a colleague is struggling with stress or mental health, you can reach out and start a conversation. They might be doing fine, just having a bad day, or really need someone to talk to. Whatever their situation there is no harm in starting the conversation.

Reaching out

There is support available for healthcare workers to stay on top of their mental health. RCSEd has a list of resources and organisations that are there to help. But often the best place to start is talking to a trusted friend or colleague. As much as we need to be there for our peers, we need to be there for ourselves too.

Support available

Opening up to a friend over a run, walk, or cup of tea can do wonders for mental health but there are times when that is not enough, and more help is needed. Here are some signs that you or a colleague could use more formal assistance with your wellbeing.

  • They share thoughts that they would be better off dead 
  • They share thoughts that they are thinking of hurting themselves some way
  • They share thoughts that they are thinking of hurting others in some way
  • They have no interest or pleasure in doing things
  • They share that they are feeling hopeless
  • They feel bad, a failure and have let themselves or their family down
  • They are moving or speaking so slowly that it’s noticeable. Or the opposite – being so fidgety or restless that they can’t keep still
  • They are constantly feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge
  • They can’t stop worrying 
  • They become easily annoyed or irritable
  • They feel afraid as if something awful might happen

If you spot any of these signs, please reach out to some of the following mental health support organisations: