Urgent mental health appeal

Mental health issues among doctors are surging. Your support can help turn the tide.

An urgent appeal from our President

Dear friends,

I am sure you are aware of the ever-increasing pressure on our doctors. In my career as a psychiatrist, I have seen first-hand just how severely work pressures can affect mental health. As President of the RMBF, I’m concerned what this sustained pressure could mean for the wellbeing of our medical profession.

We know that doctors are at greater risk of burnout, depression and suicide compared to the general working population.

It has become increasingly common to see doctors facing financial hardship that has been caused, or worsened, by mental health difficulties. The RMBF has seen a surge in requests for help due to mental health issues – in fact, it has become the number one reason doctors turn to us for support. We have also seen an 80% increase in referrals to DocHealth, the confidential psychotherapy service we support together with the BMA.

That’s why I’m writing to you today with this urgent appeal. Please donate and help us be there for doctors struggling with their mental health.

Anna, a junior doctor, was working in A&E when Covid hit. Assigned to the “red zone”, she had prolonged exposure on the front line. Proper PPE was scarce, established protocols were ripped up, and guidelines changed daily as the profession grappled with a novel virus. Her patients died in unprecedented numbers, and Anna found herself consoling relatives by phone as they were unable to visit. All of this took a heavy toll.

Anna was left with burnout, anxiety and depression, and had to take a long period off work. When her sick pay ran out, the financial pressure started to bite.

Photo of a young female doctor in scrubs, wearing a surgical mask. She looks calm and composed.

For Anna, the RMBF was a lifeline. Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, we were able to provide a financial grant to help her with day to day living costs, meaning she could still meet her mortgage payments and cover the bills while off sick. The safety net has enabled her to focus on her recovery, without financial pressures further impacting her mental health. We are now supporting Anna through a phased return to work.

Mental ill health can have serious financial implications for doctors if they are unable to work or are on reduced hours. Around three-quarters of those we help are under 40. They have not yet built up a financial safety net, and being left unable to work can quickly mean struggling to pay the bills.

The good news is that your support can really make a difference.

When doctors get the right help, things do get better, and that’s why I’m asking you to donate today. 70% of those we support are either back in work, or no longer need financial help, within a year. That rises to 85% within two years. That ability to provide the right sort of help is essential. A key example is our dedicated money advice service. Money problems can put an enormous strain on someone’s mental health, making it that much harder to manage their finances. Helping a doctor to reduce their debt, or access the benefits they are entitled to, can help break that vicious cycle.

Your donation could support a vital mental health service, at a time when it’s never been more needed.

DocHealth offers confidential psychotherapy for all UK doctors on a self-referral basis. Any doctor getting in touch can access a first appointment within three weeks – there’s no triage or long waiting list. It is completely confidential, with no reports to GPs, trusts or the GMC. Crucially, DocHealth’s clinical team are all experienced medical consultants, specialists trained in psychiatry and psychotherapy. It means doctors speak to someone who understands the pressures and demands of the job. However, we need your support to ensure we can continue to cover the fees of doctors who could benefit from DocHealth, but are in financial difficulty.

From a lifetime in medicine, I know that doctors are resilient, resourceful, and dedicated above all else to doing everything they can for their patients, even in the face of intense pressure. But without some respite from that pressure, without a helping hand when things become overwhelming, even the most resilient doctor can reach a crisis point.

That’s why I am urgently asking for your help today. The RMBF receives no government funding, so your donations are absolutely crucial in ensuring that doctors, medical students and their families have somewhere to turn when hardship hits.

Please, if you are able, give generously. Your support can, and will, change lives.

Professor Shiela the Baroness Hollins wearing a white jacketProfessor Sheila the Baroness Hollins
RMBF President

P.S. I will leave the last word to an RMBF supporter, who kindly shared their reason for donating.

I worked as a surgeon throughout my professional life. I’m now 94 years old, and have given my life to the NHS. This is an exceptionally challenging time for doctors, and everyone in the NHS, and I hope that they will get the support they desperately need.