In 2020, a Beyond Blue survey reported: “approximately 40% of doctors felt that medical professionals with a history of mental health disorders were perceived as less competent than their peers, and 48% felt that these doctors were less likely to be appointed compared to doctors without a history of mental health problems. Approximately 59% of doctors felt that being a patient causes embarrassment for a doctor.”
Recognising the enormous, and growing, pressure on frontline healthcare workers in the early stages of the COVID pandemic, combined with the stigma around doctors seeking help, the renowned not-for-profit mental health organisation, Black Dog Institute (BDI), rapidly developed and launched The Essential Network (TEN). TEN is a confidential e-health hub for healthcare professionals, allowing access to free mental health resources and support.
The TEN service was launched in May 2020 (including the self-guided Digital Mental Health Check-Up and health professional-specific tools and supports). The Navigating Burnout program was launched in April 2022. The TEN Clinic launched in August 2020.
With TEN coming up to its third anniversary, we asked Dr Melissa Black, a Clinical Psychologist at BDI, about the TEN journey so far, and how BDI will continue to prioritise the mental health of health professionals.
Since TEN was launched, as of February 2023, over 75,000 health professionals have visited the site. 12,221 have completed an assessment and received a personalised report summary. The TEN Clinic has received over 500 referrals since August 2020; over half of these people have received treatment from a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist as part of the program. “Users particularly like that the service has been developed ‘by health professionals for health professionals’,” says Dr Black. “It focuses on burnout, and is outside of their workplace and the Medicare system, overcoming some concerns about stigma and addressing fears about mandatory reporting.”
Since the program’s rapid launch in 2020, it has consistently undergone improvements in response to both anecdotal feedback and statistics from use. Some improvements, as Dr Black explains, include:
- Improvement of the Digital Mental Health Check-up to include a measure of burnout and health professional-specific support recommendations;
- Inclusion of health professional-specific support services in the online mental health hub
- Development of specific resources to demystify healthcare workers' mental health, stigma, and addressing fears about mandatory reporting
- Development of an interactive and health professional-specific Navigating Burnout resource
- Iteration of the TEN Clinical Service to include up to 5 individual sessions to allow the scope of brief interventions and referrals as needed (rather than just a single assessment and recommendation service)
This commitment to optimisation ensures that the program remains relevant and effective for its target users. “Since launching in April 2022, there have been 2772 unique visitors to the Navigating Burnout program,” says Dr Black. “Over 80% of surveyed users rated the program as ‘Very Useful’ or ‘Extremely Useful’.”
BDI continues to evaluate and improve the program to ensure it consistently meets the needs of health professionals. The program’s success has resulted in an additional $1.7 million in funding from the Federal Government to extend the program to 2024. "We plan to continue delivering this blended mental health service to Australian health professionals and evaluate its impact over time," says Dr Black. “Our team are currently evaluating implementation strategies to date, and making recommendations for how we might increase engagement with both the digital resources and clinical service to match service uptake to the reported mental health needs of health professionals.“
This interview contributes towards Wavelength’s ongoing support and commitment towards the mental health and wellbeing of its employees, doctors and community. Wavelength’s proactive approach allows us to create an inclusive, friendly and productive environment for all. If you are struggling with your mental health, we urge you to reach out for help by speaking with friends, family or colleagues, or seeking medical assistance. Click here for some useful resources.