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June 2019

2 people and dog with bright socks jpeg
Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos with Dr Geoff Toogood and Ambulance Victoria peer support dog, Bruce.

AMA award for doctors’ health campaigner

A Melbourne cardiologist who single-handedly started an international movement to encourage doctors to openly discuss their mental health struggles is the recipient of the 2019 AMA President’s Award.

Dr Geoff Toogood was presented with the award at the AMA national conference in Brisbane.

The president’s award is given to a person who, in the opinion of the president, has made an outstanding contribution towards furthering the objectives of the AMA.

‘Dr Toogood is a most worthy recipient on the basis of his demonstrated commitment to, and advocacy for, doctors’ health,’ said AMA president Tony Bartone.

‘Geoff speaks from a lived experience and is a passionate and authentic advocate for the medical profession,’ Dr Bartone said.

‘He overcame significant mental health issues with the support of his family, GP and other health providers.

‘But, on his return to work, he faced discrimination and unfounded speculation about the state of his mental health.

‘As part of his recovery, he wore bright socks and adopted a puppy.

‘And, as anyone who has ever lived with a puppy knows, socks and pups are not a good mix.

‘One day in 2016, his dog, Sammy, chewed one of his socks as he was on his way out the door to work.

‘When Geoff grabbed another, non-matching sock and wore it to work, he became aware that his colleagues were laughing at him behind his back and whispering that he was ‘going crazy again’.

‘A simple question or chat would have cleared up the matter.

‘Geoff decided it was time to break down the stigma and get people talking about mental illness in the medical profession.

‘So, he made the first Friday in June #CrazySocks4Docs day and encouraged members of the health profession to share photos of their odd, crazy socks on social media.

‘#CrazySocks4Docs is now a global phenomenon with doctors around the world donning odd socks.

‘Geoff’s message is that it is okay for doctors not to be okay – and that by talking openly about mental illness, depression and anxiety, we can empower our colleagues to seek help or offer assistance.

‘A beyondblue survey of 14,000 Australian doctors and medical students in 2013 found that they are burnt-out, more likely to experience psychological distress and suicidal thoughts than the general community and are drinking too much alcohol.

‘We have lost too many of our colleagues in recent years to ignore our own health,’ Dr Bartone said.