Looking after your mental wellbeing
Can you introduce yourself and tell me about your current role?
My name is Dr Amrita Sen Mukherjee. I am a portfolio GP, which means that I have a few part time roles and wear different hats. Essentially, I have roles in clinical medicine, leadership, advocacy and medical education. One of my roles is as an accredited Coach and my area of expertise is in the field of Wellbeing and mental fitness.
Can you tell me more about your work with physician health and personal transformation?
One of the things I focus on in my role as a Coach and as a Wellbeing expert, is looking at how physicians can care for themselves. Physicians are very good at looking after other people, but not so much when we turn that lens introspectively. There are so many different reasons as to why that may be the case. Time is one factor… Physicians don’t have enough time to look after themselves. Resource is another…being able to offer that time and energy to actually think about your own wellbeing requires a different skill set.
I support colleagues in teaching and developing skills through supporting them in understanding their own Wellbeing pathways. I support them in developing a transformative process which allows them to develop their own Wellbeing, in a way, that’s optimum for them. This allows individuals time to grow, thrive and flourish in a way that’s right for them and unique to them. Because, we all have our own journeys, our own ways of wellbeing and our own understanding of what this this. My way, is to support people in understanding this in a manner that is easy and supportive to them.
Do you find medical professionals don’t look after their own health and wellness enough?
I don’t think it’s a yes or no. I think that we could all, as individuals, could look after ourselves a lot better. When I work with people, I look at people as human beings and not doctors. One of my roles is to care for others, whoever that person may be. That might be in a physician, in primary, secondary or tertiary care.
The way I work is to support people as human beings first. Discussing concepts and stripping difficulties back down to first principles, down to basics. I think quite often what happens in healthcare, is that we are so busy and we are so focused on looking after other people, that we forget to look after ourselves. We don’t have the time. The way in which we’re trained takes the focus away from ourselves because one of the fundamental principles of care from the Hippocratic oath is to put patients before ourselves, and patient’s safety first which is paramount. But, when you’re trained to do that as part of your ethical focus and part of your ethical framework… it becomes a lived experience, so quite often physicians forget about themselves.
For me, I try to bring it back to basics reunite people with their foundations, their values and their principles – the pillars that support their individual wellbeing and identity.
What more can people do to ensure they are looking after their own health and wellness?
This is a multifaceted answer. There are so many different components of wellbeing and we have to consider what is important to us, one really needs to understand themselves – is it health and wellness, wellbeing, mental health, physical health? Understanding what’s important to you, what’s important to your core values, your principles and connecting with those in a way that allows you to achieve them.
You might be working towards a particular goal, or a particular focus in life, but that might not be in alignment with your core values or principles. If that is the case, you might not be feeling very good about the goals that you are achieving because they’re not in alignment with your values or principles so you are not getting the rewards.
In order for us to be better in terms of our health and wellbeing, we really need to connect with our values and our principles. This is why I work with foundations and our pillars as core principles – it’s all about connecting with oneself which requires and deserves time, energy and resource. It’s not an easy process, it’s not something that can happen overnight, but when people are supported in the right way at the right time, then absolutely anyone is capable of achieving their optimum wellbeing.
What inspired you to become a GP?
My dad. My late father was a GP. He was the village GP and by far the most brilliant physician. Before he became a GP, he was in the military doctor, then did his anaesthetic training before moving into General Practice.
He was a very knowledgeable practitioner and physician. So, I learned a lot from him as a child, growing up. He was my inspiration and the reason I wanted to become a General practitioner. I had a great role model.
What inspired you to start helping other medical professionals with their wellbeing?
I had a really great role model, my dad was my inspiration to become a doctor and the way in which he practised medicine was very holistic. He spoke about really talking to people, getting to know them and understanding them. He spoke about patients and the impact medical problems would have on them… on their lives and their environment. He taught me that it’s all about how we think about people in the whole and not as separate compartments contextualising different aspects of their being. So, I have learned that philosophy my whole life.
Studying medicine, I realised that gap was apparent. In my medical education, there was a big gap. Unfortunately, my dad passed away too early to plug that gap for me but I have an understanding of what I wanted to do. I was very lucky. I wanted to plug in my practice.
What would you like to be working on or focusing on in the next few years?
I would like to be doing much of the same as what I am doing at the moment. Wellbeing for me is not just about mental health, it’s so much more than that there is so much to this speciality that we can grow and expand upon. Once I have completed my MSc, I’ll be looking at expanding my coaching and wellbeing practice.
What advice would you have for medical professionals reading this who are struggling with their mental health?
Firstly, well done for acknowledging that you might be in difficulty. The first step in any difficult process, whether that’s a physical health problem or a mental health problem is acknowledgingthat we might be in difficulty. Secondly, I would say that no one should go through anything alone, whether that be when they’re having difficulties or whether they’re celebrating success.
Reach out to a friend, a colleague, a loved one… please reach out and share your burdens. When in a difficult place, this is often the most difficult thing to do, if you do not feel you are able to do this, please talk to a professional, a medical professional, a nursing colleague, an allied health professional please do talk to somebody or a professional support body i.e. PHP/LMC/BMA. Share your concerns, because again nobody should be suffering in silence. This last year, has taken it’s toll and we have all gone through so much. It has caused a catastrophic shift in so many lives. It’s no wonder that many of us may be feeling difficulties at this moment in time.
Thirdly, do not be ashamed. We need to work hard and work together around minimising and breaking down the barriers of mental health, physical health and disability within medicine. I think there is a lot of media portrayal and societal pressure around what we should be like, how we should behave, how we should be functioning. Actually, just embracing how diverse a society we are and accepting that we should all be welcomed, whatever form we arrive in is crucial to developing a compassionate culture in medicine. This is key and crucial in sustaining our workforce for the future and having acceptance around this is pivotal.
Please reach out and please feel comfortable in the fact that at some point, we may all need support because we are all human.
Can people contact you for support and coaching?
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