AMSA calls for action on mandatory reporting laws as new students begin their training.
As new medical students across the nation begin medical school this week, the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is calling for federal, state and territory health ministers to finally fix mandatory reporting laws.
AMSA is the peak representative body for Australia’s 17 000 medical students and believes that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council should fulfil its promise to implement a national framework that supports the mental health of doctors and students.
In most states, current laws mandate that doctors and medical students who seek help for mental illnesses with serious impairment must be reported by their treating doctor. This can deter students from seeking an early-stage treatment.
AMSA President Alex Farrell said “It’s often overlooked that these laws harm not just doctors but medical students as well. Last year we experienced a tragic trend of medical student suicides, and changing these laws is crucial to improving the situation. Medical students need to be supported and the current laws prevent students and doctors from accessing help.
“We know that the current WA model of ‘no mandatory reporting’ is the best option, and that it doesn’t reduce patient safety. The COAG Health Council agreed to consider this a matter of urgency in early November last year. However now, as new medical students begin their training, we want them to be able to seek help if they need it, without fear of consequences.
“We warmly welcome the fact that the Health Ministers have agreed to pursue a national approach on reform of mandatory reporting, but our concern is that it may be put on the back-burner, and medical students and doctors will suffer in silence as a result.
“It’s disturbing that medical students consistently have higher rates of mental health issues than the general population. However positive steps have been taken and there are reasons to be hopeful. A supportive national framework that enables students and doctors to seek help will go a long way to solving part of the problem.” Ms Farrell said.
If you or someone you know needs help, mental health professionals are available at:
Beyondblue phone 24/7 on 1300 224 636 or via www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support for online chat (3PM-12AM AEST) or email responses (within 24 hours)
Headspace on 1800 650 890
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Australian Medical Students Association President
P: 0488 624 75
Published: 25 Jan 2018