Great results reported from mental health campaign

4 September 2017

Our Mind Matters Initiative and the Doctors’ Support Network (DSN) are pleased to report positive progress since the launch in January of their joint anti-stigma mental health campaign.

The &me campaign (#AndMe), which was launched at the House of Commons in January, has taken a new approach to the de-stigmatisation of mental ill-health within the healthcare professions.

Although health professional bodies advise professionals to value their own wellbeing and seek appropriate help if unwell, there has been an absence of senior professionals who have felt able to say ‘been there myself’.

By asking senior medical professionals to share their stories of overcoming struggles with mental health, &me aims to encourage other medical professionals to seek help, in part by showing that such experiences do not exclude people from achieving leading roles in healthcare.

With the addition of Dr Cathy Wield in August, there are now seven ambassadors for the &me campaign, and all of their stories can be read on the Mind Matters website.

  • Dr Caroline Reed O’Connor, who went on to be a senior trainee psychiatrist and psychotherapist after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder 
  • David Bartram, a veterinary surgeon and member of RCVS Council who was in hospital multiple times as a result of depression before gaining additional qualifications and moving into roles of increasing responsibility
  • Dr Malcolm Kinnear, a psychiatrist who took long-term sick leave for depression before completing his training to become a consultant and taking an honorary teaching position at the University of Dundee
  • Dr Susan Atcheson, a senior GP who has experienced multiple episodes of psychotic depression
  • Rob Pettitt, a vet and Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool who experienced depression, taking eight weeks off work before slowly returning to a full-time schedule 
  • Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, a psychologist, psychotherapist and supervisor, who was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. He then went on to gain a consultant post with the Ministry of Defence, achieve three fellowships and four professorships, establish a research institute and become President of the British Psychological Society
  • Dr Cathy Wield, a doctor who experienced two bouts of severe depression including hospital admissions and brain surgery. She returned to work in emergency medicine, and has written two books about her experience of being a doctor with depression. 
  • Dr Susan Atcheson, a senior GP who first experienced recurrent psychotic depression 20 years ago. 

Lizzie Lockett, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, said: “Over the past eight months we have seen an incredible level of support for our &me ambassadors. Our Facebook post about Rob Pettitt, for example, reached nearly 25,000 people, many of whom posted stories about Rob helping them navigate veterinary school and better understand their own mental health issues. These kind of role models really do help reduce stigma, and we thank every one of our ambassadors for having the courage to share their own experiences with mental health.”

Louise Freeman, Vice-Chair of the Doctors’ Support Network, said: “The &me campaign has really shown how the medical professions can work together when it comes to mental health. Medical professionals face many of the same challenges, and we needn’t face them alone – instead we can work as one to tackle stigma and speak openly about mental health issues. And it’s not just in the UK that health professionals can feel as if they are ‘not allowed’ to experience mental health problems. As a direct result of the &me campaign, health professionals from around the world including Australia and the U.S. have been in contact with DSN to confirm that they have similar issues within their local health culture.”

The campaign is still interested in hearing from not only doctors and veterinary surgeons but also nurses, veterinary nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who want to open up about their experiences of mental ill health. To participate in the campaign, please email Dr Louise Freeman on vicechair@dsn.org.uk.

On social media tweets about the campaign are sent from @vetmindmatters and @DocSupportNet Twitter accounts using the hashtag #AndMe.