A world-first survey of thousands of Australian doctors has revealed they are burnt out, experience more psychological distress and suicidal thoughts than other people, and drink too much.
Beyondblue's national mental health survey of 14,000 doctors and medical students found junior doctors and female doctors were most at risk.
One in five medical students and one in 10 doctors had suicidal thoughts in the past year, compared with one in 45 people in the wider community.
Male doctors worked longer hours and tended to binge drink more than female colleagues, but women doctors were more psychologically distressed and thought about suicide more often. Oncologists were the most psychologically distressed specialists.
The report also found that perceived stigma was rife, with almost half believing doctors with a history of depression or anxiety were less likely to be given jobs or appointed to positions.
Beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett said it was the first time such a big portion of a country's doctors had been surveyed on their mental health.
"We conducted this survey because, given doctors and medical students are under immense pressure and deal regularly with pain and death, we know that the mental health of many of them is poor," Mr Kennett said. Beyondblue ambassador and Bassendean GP John McAuliffe said there was much denial of mental health problems in his profession.
Dr McAuliffe, 51, has managed his bipolar disorder for 30 years.
"You have to be a bit self-reliant and take control so it doesn't control you," he said.
Australian Medical Association WA vice-president Michael Gannon said the findings were sobering and shattered the myth that doctors were at the same risk of psychological stress and suicide as other people.
"There are horrible things you see . . . doctors are exposed to life at its most brilliant and at its most tragic," Dr Gannon said. "Unfortunately, doctors are also better at taking their own life because they often have the means."
Advice for medical workplaces is at beyondblue.org.au/workplace.
Anyone with thoughts of suicide should phone Lifeline's 24-hour crisis line on 13 11 14.