Bring out your crazy socks for mental health

This Friday, 1 June 2018, is #crazysocks4docs – the day for doctors and their allies to wear flamboyant socks in support of doctors’ mental health. Take a picture of your socks and post it on your social media accounts. Or, if you’d rather be anonymous, send them to cswannell@mja.com.au and we’ll do it for you.

AS Crazysocks4docs Day – when we show our sartorial sock splendour in the name of doctors’ mental health – rapidly approaches, I have been asked to reflect on the past 12 months.

As I am writing this, I am patting my crazysocks4docs cofounder, Sammy the Golden Retriever, who started it all by eating the doctor’s (my!) socks.

When I was suffering from severe depression, I was buying bright-coloured socks in a small effort to cheer myself up. It worked, to a degree, and it was a simple measure to gain some lift in my mood. As every normal delightful puppy does, Sammy went through my laundry basket, leaving me with only unmatched bright socks to wear to work.

When I did indeed wear technicolor odd socks on my rounds, I thought it was hardly a big issue, although my mental health was questioned by a number of people behind my back. Even though at this stage I was recovered, rather than feeling the arm of support from my colleagues, I felt, for very superficial reasons, a degree of discrimination.

This is a profession that has, so often, failed to look after its own.

It came to me that I could use my small social media group to raise awareness about doctors’ mental health, and #crazysocks4docs was born. Little did I expect that it would go viral on the day, resulting in massive support.

It also saved lives. I have heard stories about doctors who sought help as a result of #crazysocks4docs and it saved their lives. Hopefully, we continue to save lives and make a difference.

This year promises to be even bigger. At the time of writing, we have not only Australia involved but also Canada, the UK, the US, New Zealand, Spain, France and Ireland. The list is growing daily, in languages that I can’t read on Twitter but they are joining us. Mental health is clearly a global issue and we are giving a voice to doctors who have been silent for too long.

It is a simple idea about an authentic journey that met a need – awareness – and a way for doctors to say that they were struggling, or for showing support for those that were. It was using social media for good.

Since then, and not solely due to #crazysocks4docs, there has been increasing discussion about the mental health of doctors. The learned colleges have run sessions and developed policies on the topic. Friday, 1 June hopefully will enhance these discussions, but also lead to action. Walking the talk is required as well as the awareness and discussion – it’s crucial.

My mantra for the day is to raise awareness, normalise the discussion and create a safe place in which to do this. I will challenge leaders to be authentic on this issue – culture is driven from the top.

I hope people have fun and that even their families participate – my youngest daughter will be joining in. We should never forget that families suffer as well.

Some people will be remembering friends who have died and, perhaps, reflecting on their own battles. It will be an emotional day for some, not only me.

Get those crazy socks out on Friday, 1 June – take a photo and post it to your social networks. Have fun with it and enjoy the day!

Dr Geoffrey Toogood is a cardiologist and a long-time advocate for mental health. He has swum the English Channel. He came up with the idea of crazysocks4docs day.

 

To find a doctor, or a job, to use GP Desktop and Doctors Health, book and track your CPD, and buy textbooks and guidelines, visit doctorportal.

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