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Support for psychiatrists – where to get help

Feeling burnt out? Mental illness? Drug or alcohol addiction? Physical illness? Financial issues? Relationship problems? Gambling addiction?

If you are a psychiatrist or trainee facing health or personal issues, you are not alone. Many doctors face challenges such as depression and addiction, although few speak about them publicly. 

The RANZCP is committed to supporting any psychiatrist or trainee experiencing difficulties. As your professional organisation, we are here to help you get through any issue you are facing.

There are many ways to seek help that are anonymous and confidential. This page lists some good places to start.

.See also: Self-care for psychiatrists

Where to get help

Is it an emergency?

If you are at risk of harming yourself or others, you should get help immediately.

  • Call 000 in Australia or 111 in New Zealand.
  • Visit the emergency department at your nearest hospital.
  • Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 in Australia or 0800 543 354 in New Zealand.

Doctors' health advisory service helplines

For any type of problem, a good place to start is your local doctors’ health advisory service. The helplines are staffed by doctors with expertise in treating other doctors, and can provide you with confidential, anonymous assistance over the phone for both health and personal issues.

ACT ACT Doctors’ Health Advisory Service 0407 265 414 (24 hours)
NSW NSW Doctors’ Health Advisory Service (02) 9437 6552 (24 hours)
NT Use the NSW Doctors’ Health Advisory Service (02) 9437 6552 (24 hours)
QLD Doctors' Health Advisory Service Queensland (07) 3833 4352 (24 hours)
SA Doctors' Health SA (08) 8366 0250 (24 hours)
TAS Use the AMA Victoria Peer Support Service 1300 853 338 (8am – 10pm, 7 days)
VIC AMA Victoria Peer Support Service 1300 853 338 (8am – 10pm, 7 days)
Victorian Doctors Health Program (03) 9495 6011 (9am – 5pm weekdays, with urgent out-of-hours help available)
WA Doctors' Health Advisory Service WA (08) 9321 3098 (24 hours)
Australia  Australasian Doctors' Health Network 
New Zealand Doctor’s' Health Advisory Service 0800 471 2654 (24 hours)


Clinical services for doctors

Some states have dedicated services for doctors, staffed by clinicians who have been trained in caring for colleagues. If your state isn't mentioned, call your doctors' health advisory service (see list above) as a first step.

SA Doctors Health SA
VIC Victorian Doctor's Health Program
WA GPs for doctors program

Other ways to get help

The RANZCP can provide confidential assistance to members in difficulty by helping connect them with appropriate organisations or services.

All Australian and New Zealand hospitals have an employee assistance program (EAP) that offers free, confidential consultations to employees. You should be able to find the details in your induction pack or staff common area. Otherwise, your hospital’s human resources department can provide them to you.

Medical indemnity insurers often offer a general support service (covering health and personal matters in addition to medico-legal issues), for example: Medical Protection SocietyAvantMIGA and MIPS. Contact your insurer to see how they can help you.

Local medical associations, such as your local AMA branch or other association, often have services aimed at member welfare. Contact them for their advice.

Psychiatrists working in a rural or remote setting face unique pressures not shared by their urban colleagues. These can range from professional isolation to difficulty in taking time off, and having to take on broader responsibilities. Seeking help can also be challenging, because of confidentiality issues and the lack of local support services.

A good first step is to call your local doctors' health advisory service (see list above). All offer a helpline as a first point of contact, and can help with personal as well as health concerns. 

Another useful helpline is Bush Support Services, 1800 805 391 (24 hours), which provides free, anonymous telephone counselling service to Australian rural and remote area health professionals and their families. It is staffed by psychologists experienced in the rural and remote sector. The reference group behind this helpline has also produced Avoiding burn-out in remote areas: Surviving the day to day hassles, a guide for remote health practitioners.

If you need to consult with a medical professional, but would prefer to see someone outside the area you live in, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine hosts a Telehealth Provider Directory. Use the directory to find GPs, specialists and allied health practitioners who offer consultations remotely, using video-conferencing software.

Online psychotherapy programs are available for a range of issues. Find an evidence-based program to help with a health issue by using the Beacon e-health application directory. The directory is a comprehensive listing of e-health websites and mobile apps, with evidence level ratings provided by the National Institute for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University.

In South Australia, the Dr Doc clinical service is targeted at maintaining the wellbeing of rural doctors in SA.

To establish a peer support network of people facing similar challenges, join the RANZCP's Section of Rural Psychiatry or your local rural doctor's association


The RANZCP recognises that the path to Fellowship places many stresses on trainees and overseas-trained psychiatrists. The rigours of training must be balanced with the pressures of personal/family life and, for those coming from overseas, living and working in an unfamiliar context.

The RANZCP's Training (training@ranzcp.org) and Specialist International Medical Graduate Education (simge@ranzcp.org) teams can point you in the right direction if you're having difficulties.

The best place to start with a training issue is often with your supervisor or Director of Training. If you are not comfortable speaking with your own supervisor or Director of Training, you can contact another. All Directors of Training have a trainee welfare role, and expect that trainees from other Directors of Training will seek their help from time to time. 

Some workplaces have a dedicated support person for trainees to speak to regarding welfare issues. Some also run peer support groups or mentoring programs for trainees.

If you feel you are being bullied, harassed or mistreated by colleagues or superiors, contact the RANZCP for a confidential discussion.

If you feel you would benefit from ad hoc support from a more senior colleague, contact the RANZCP head office or local branch chair with your request.

The RANZCP Trainee Representative Committee and the RANZCP Overseas Trained Psychiatrists Representative Committee provide a means of formal representation of trainees and overseas-trained psychiatrists within the RANZCP. Contact your local representative (see each group's web page) to raise an issue with either group.

RANZCP coaching grants are available to help overseas-trained psychiatrists on the pathway to Fellowship. You can apply for coaching grants for clinical skills, but also for assistance with communication skills, anxiety management, cultural adaptation, etc.

The Health and Wellbeing of Junior Doctors website addresses the difficulties faced by junior doctors


Financial problems are more common among doctors than you might expect. Rest assured that you are not alone, and that there are ways to obtain assistance.

Members in financial distress can apply to the RANZCP for an exemption or reduction in subscription fees or to set up a payment plan.

Your medical indemnity insurer may be able to offer useful advice or support if your financial hardship is caused by a medico-legal matter.

Medical benevolent associations in New Zealand and some Australian states can offer short-term financial assistance to doctors in need. Some can also help with providing financial advice.

ACT
NSW
QLD
SA Medical Benevolent Association of South Australia, (08) 8361 0107    
VIC
Medical Benevolent Association of Victoria, (03) 9496 4205 or 0455 129 979
WA AMA Benevolent Fund of WA, email mail@amawa.com.au
New Zealand

 

Drug, alcohol and gambling addiction are not uncommon among doctors, but the outlook is good for those who seek treatment and have good ongoing support.

Call your local doctors' health advisory service (see list above). These services are experienced in advising doctors with drug, alcohol and gambling issues.

Or, try calling one of the following 24-hour helplines: 

Australia

Drug and Alcohol Counselling Online 1800 888 236
Gambling Help Online 1800 858 858
Quit 1378 48

New Zealand

Alcohol and Drug Helpline 0800 787 797
Gambling Helpline 0800 654 655
Quit 0800 778 778


The RANZCP Code of Ethics states that 'Psychiatrists have a duty to attend to the health and well-being of their colleagues, including trainees and students'.

The RANZCP can offer confidential advice if you are concerned about the health of a psychiatrist or trainee.

Your local doctors' health advisory service (see list above) can offer anonymous, confidential advice to the family members of doctors, or to doctors concerned about a colleague.

The Heads up website lists practical suggestions on how have a conversation with a colleague you’re concerned about.

If you have good grounds to believe that another doctor's ill health is a serious risk to themselves or their patients, you may need to consider notifying the relevant authority. Refer to the Medical Board of Australia's Guidelines for mandatory notification or the Medical Board of New Zealand's Health concerns page for more information. 


Peer support can come in the form of mentoring, a Balint group, a peer review group, informal communication, or membership of an organisation. Whichever form it comes in, you should make sure it is a safe and supportive space to discuss challenges in your professional life and how these impact on you.

RANZCP members participate in peer review groups as part of the CPD program. Many members find this a supportive environment in which to access peer support. If you would like to transfer to another peer review group, contact the RANZCP Continuing Medical Education team.

If you feel you would benefit from ad hoc support from a more senior colleague, contact the RANZCP head office or local branch chair with your request.

Many peer support groups are run informally in workplaces or other settings. Ask around your networks for opportunities to join a group.

The Mental Health Professionals Network in Australia has a database that will allow you to find a network group that meets near you. Network meetings provide a forum for practitioners from various disciplines to connect, build relationships, provide peer support and improve referral pathways.

The RANZCP's Faculties and Sections and Branch/National offices regularly run events for members.

For rural or remote psychiatrists, your local rural doctor's association (see above) is a good way of meeting people facing similar challenges.

Other associations:


Would you like to better understand your health and wellbeing?

Visit the new RANZCP self-care e-learning modules. These three 20-minute modules provide an interactive learning experience, and are endorsed for CPD credits (when all three modules are completed).

This page and some of the associated resources were made possible through Australian Government funding.