Crazy socks have been championed as a way to encourage health professionals to talk about their mental health on the second annual Crazy Socks 4 Docs Day.
Medical staff at Ballarat Health Service got in to the spirit donning socks ranging from mismatched pairs to Christmas corgis even a personalised pair with the doctor’s own dog on them.
The custom socks, featuring old English sheepdog Martha, were on the feet of emergency department director Dr Pauline Chapman.
“The day is about wearing crazy socks to start the conversation about mental health among medical staff,” Dr Chapman said.
“In wider society there seems to be less resistance to talking about mental health, but in the medical field we still seem quite reluctant to talk about our own mental health issues.
“We are supposed to be super human but we are human … we are people, we have the same stresses. Usually doctors are type A personality, highly driven and put a lot of pressure on themselves so when they don’t live up to that self-imposed pressure there can be a tendency to become depressed with negative self talk.”
Dr Chapman said Ballarat Health Services and other hospitals were more mindful of mental health now than in decades past.
“Hospitals now encourage, through their employee assistance programs, for people to have help. There’s a lot of awareness of making sure people aren’t working too hard and if people are struggling they are encouraged to speak up about it rather than self medicating.
“Just like any other medical condition, mental health is a condition that can be treated.”
Mornington Peninsula cardiologist Dr Geoff Toogood started the crazy sock campaign last year after battling severe depression.
“It is so important that doctors start talking to each other, to their family and friends about mental illness,” Dr Toogood said. “Doctors need to look after each other, so that we can look after everyone else.”
Dr Toogood had worn brightly coloured socks since recovering from his depression and one morning, when getting ready for work, he discovered his dog had been playing with his laundry basket and there were only odd socks left.
“A person who knew my past mental health history noticed and asked someone else whether in fact I was well and what was going on,” explained Dr Toogood.
Rather than feeling support, he felt some discrimination and decided to make June 1 Crazy Socks for Docs Day.
“The actual reason I was wearing odd socks was because I’d just bought a dog and it had mauled all the washing so they were the only two socks I had!”