Health practitioner’s mental health – an MDO’s perspective

The warning signs...

  • Self prescribing and inappropriate use of medications
  •  Practitioners with established mental health conditions
  • Poor performance or assessment
  • Being bullied or harassed (however appropriate performance management is not bullying or harassment)
  • Regular disputes with your colleagues
  • International healthcare graduates facing isolation, prejudice or cultural and communication issues.

Key messages

  • many bad behaviours and co-morbidities begin whilst at medical school
  • a prevalence of psychiatric morbidity in final medical school year and can increase significantly during internship
  • psychiatric morbidity, substance abuse and relationship problems are common.
  •  a higher depression rate than the general population, a small percentage of practitioners had suicidal ideations
  • Many doctors do not look after themselves - almost a third do not have a GP, roughly half write their own prescriptions and 30% have not seen a doctor for years
  • AHPRA have a number of reporting requirements surrounding impairment. These include self-reporting and mandatory reporting. The implications can be serious. Self-reporting impairment may minimise the consequences as it shows insight and a willingness to obtain help . 


  • Never prescribe S8 drugs for yourself or family, always properly record and dispose of drugs
  • Develop a healthy work life balance -  do not overdo either
  • Contact your MDO early with any issues - note MDO advisers are exempt from mandatory reporting to AHPRA
  • Show insight - reach out and seek out help, support and assistance. This is not a weakness and you will not be stigmatised. Get help from your GP, employee assistance programs, Beyondblue Mental Health Program for doctors, your State based doctors help programs and your MDO.
  • Supervision and dealing with bullying are both skills that need to be taught and learnt.

When in doubt

  • Contact MIPS 24hr Clinico-legal Support.  1800 061 113

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