Supporting our RANZCP community in times of tragedy

Like the rest of the Australian community, we have been shaken by the tragic events that have unfolded over the past few days in Sydney. Our thoughts and condolences go out to all those affected by these senseless acts of violence, including the victims, their families, the witnesses, health workers, first responders and the wider community. I also want to extend a heartfelt message of gratitude to the police officers and the members of the community who bravely put their lives at stake to save and look after others. Their selflessness and courage will be remembered by us for times to come.

As psychiatrists, we are pillars of support and healing for our communities. It is important that we extend our compassion and care to those affected, but also prioritise our own mental health and wellbeing. The nature of our profession means we’re often exposed to trauma and distress, and it is essential that we take the time to care for ourselves and each other so that we can continue to support those in need.

We’re also acutely aware of the impact that the ongoing media coverage can have on individuals and communities. It is important that, whatever type of services we work in, that we or those in our teams reach out to our more vulnerable patients and check in, how they have reacted, how they are processing what has happened and any impacts on their underlying conditions. Sensationalised reporting and use of harmful language to describe mental illness can potentially exacerbate underlying mental health conditions, including trauma-related disorders, as well as further marginalise people and perpetuate stigma. It may be helpful to encourage our patients and loved ones to limit media exposure if necessary.

Let us not forget that while mental health conditions may sometimes be a factor in tragic incidents, the majority of individuals living with mental illnesses are not violent. We have a role to play in challenging stigma and to advocate for a society that supports and empowers those living with mental health conditions.

Please remember that support is available to you if you need it, whether through our College’s resources or other avenues. The RANZCP Member Support Program is available for free to all members 24x7, providing access to consultations with psychologists, social workers and counsellors. This service extends also to the family/whānau of RANZCP members, with several ways to book and make an appointment.

We must come together as a community of dedicated mental health professionals to extend support and solace to one another as we navigate these challenging times, and emerge more resilient, united, and compassionate.

Dr Elizabeth Moore


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