newsGP – “Never underestimate the power of a general practitioner”: the story of Dr. Daniel Byrne

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In support of CrazySocks4Docs, the chairman of RACGP South Australia and the Northern Territory shared his own mental health problems and how he dealt with them.

Dr. Daniel Byrne believes that attitudes toward mental health have changed since he first became a general practitioner.


Dr. Daniel Byrne did not recognize the warning signs when he first struggled with his mental health.

It was in the early 1990s, at the beginning of his career as a general practitioner, that “burnout” was not a widely used phrase.

In retrospect, however, Dr. Byrne sees it this way.

“I worked too hard, but I didn’t realize I was working too hard,” he said newsGP.

“I probably did the equivalent of what might be called 12 sessions a week with evenings and weekends.”

Dr Byrne says he would go to work feeling grumpy and irritated by his patients, which he now describes as a “red flag.”

When his wife expressed her concerns, Dr Byrne said he took her feedback on board and agreed to see a GP.

As a result, he took time off and made some changes, although at the time he did not feel able to talk openly about his mental health.

“I had to come up with an excuse for not working,” he said. “I hid it.”

While he was able to recover, darker times came. In 1997, Dr. Byrne’s mother took her own life.

“She had a long history of mental health problems,” Dr. Byrne said. “It was terrible, of course, but I kept working and I thought I was working on it.

“It wasn’t until six months later that I really began to feel the consequences of not dealing with it properly.”

Dr. Byrne says again that the advice of the people around him – his family, friends and colleagues – has proved crucial.

“You think you’re a doctor and you’re invincible, that you’ve seen a lot of bad things and helped many patients overcome their mental problems.

“But when it happens to you, you often lack insight. When you get feedback, listen to it. ”

The general practitioner’s consultation led to a referral to a mental health specialist, which helped Dr. Byrne to go through – and strongly advises any doctor in a similar position to seek professional help.

“Don’t be shy,” he said. “You don’t have to make a mental health care plan under Medicare, you can do it privately if you want.”

While it is impossible to escape the nature of stressful work, he says the importance of balance is more widely recognized than ever before.

“I don’t know if the average patient realizes how much we fear for him,” he said. “Things usually go well, but maybe you woke up in the middle of the night and worried about them.

“I think every GP has experienced it. Some of these things come with the territory. But how do you balance social life, personal and family life? I think it’s important. “

Dr. Byrne thinks he has a much better balance now than he did when he set aside time for practice and family – although he admits that it took him some time to get to this point.

He remembers how he consciously decided to make changes to get the right combination when his children were in school.

“I wrote a letter to the patients that I would not work on the weekends, I would watch my children play sports,” he recalled.

“I was really surprised at how positively received the patients and the community.

‘[They said] “Yeah, of course, that’s great, you’ll never get this time again.” So I’m really glad I did.

“I hope younger doctors are better at all these days. Maybe I’m a little old dinosaur. “

Dr. Byrne is also pleased that the stigma surrounding the mental health debate is less than at the beginning of his career.

“If I had to take time off for my mental health now, I would be open about it,” he said.

This is one of the reasons why he feels able to speak newsGP and also why they firmly believe in CrazySocks4Docs.

In addition to dressing up his own eye-catching couple, Dr Byrne says his practice sponsors CrazySocks4Docs breakfast in Adelaide.

“I think it shows that the medical profession has its own stresses,” he said. “It’s a little light, an opportunity to talk about it.”

Dr. Byrne wants to emphasize one more point: the ability of GPs to help their own.

“My thanks go to the two GPs who helped me,” he said.

‘Never underestimate the strength you have as a general practitioner, just by listening to a colleague, offering him a clear way forward and a safe space for a good cry.’

In support of CrazySocks4Docs, the school sells five different pairs of socks from the RACGP store, with all proceeds from the sale of socks being donated to Beyond Blue.

Mental health promotion for general practitioners

For immediate support, you can call Lifeline 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36.

RACGP also has extensive resources for self-care and mental health for GPs published on its website.

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