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OA Push Up For Mental Health

In a bid to highlight concerns about mental health and wellbeing within optometry, Optometry Australia (OA) is urging the eye health community to join the ‘Eye opt to push up’ challenge in June.

Between January 2018 and December 2021, 16 practitioners tragically took their own lives while involved in regulatory processes or investigations, and an additional four practitioners attempted suicide or engaged in self-harming behaviours.

The disturbing statistics were contained in a report from an expert advisory group released earlier this year by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).

OA said the report adds to data obtained in late 2019 when a team of researchers from Queensland University of Technology conducted a “large, cross-sectional survey of Australian optometrists, using well established mental health scales”.

“The results they found listed prevalence of depression and anxiety and moderate to severe psychological distress at 31%. Prevalence of high burnout was 56% and optometrists aged ≤ 30 years were 3.5 times more likely to report moderate to severe psychological distress compared to optometrists aged >30 years,” OA said.

By collectively addressing mental health challenges, the optometry sector can work towards creating a resilient and supportive professional community

OA said the data underscores the pressing need for increased mental health support within the Australian optometry sector.

Push Up to Raise Awareness

To raise awareness and raise money for the crisis support service Lifeline, OA will participate in the Push Up Challenge throughout June. The aim is to complete 3,144 push-ups during June.

The 3,144 push-ups represent the number of Australians who lost their lives to suicide in 2021.

Optometry Australia’s Chief Clinical Officer, Luke Arundel, said: “By joining the Push Up Challenge, Optometry Australia aims to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing while actively supporting Lifeline’s critical work.

“It’s important to note the Push Up Challenge isn’t just about ‘push-ups’. Participants can complete any health-related activity (this might be squats, walking or minutes mediating) as we break down some of the stigma of talking about mental health.

“We encourage our members to come together as a community through this initiative, supporting one another and fostering an environment of compassion and understanding,” he said. “By collectively addressing mental health challenges, the optometry sector can work towards creating a resilient and supportive professional community.”

Beyond the Challenge

OA said beyond the June awareness initiative, it provides a range of services to assist members in maintaining their mental health. This includes a Member Assistance Program, which is a free and confidential service for Optometry Australia members, enabling them access to up to three coaching and counselling sessions over a 12-month period, aimed at strengthening mental resilience and wellbeing.

A series of webcasts and podcasts has also been developed to address burnout and mental health. The resources also include a Mental Health First Aid Course, designed to help members recognise and appropriately triage patients suffering from mental health issues into appropriate care.

“Finally, the Optometry Advisor Help Desk is available to support its members with complex issues – from Ahpra investigations to Medicare audits, medico issues to major sector change,” OA said in a news release. The Help Desk provides confidential, independent advice.

Join The Challenge

You can join the Push Up Challenge by joining the ‘Eye opt to push up’ group, and help to raise funds for Lifeline, ensuring that crucial support services are available to those in need.

Further support

Lifeline a national charity providing all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Lifeline exists so that no person in Australia has to face their darkest moments alone.

In Australia, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or via SMS on 0477 131 114.

In New Zealand, Lifeline Aotearoa is available on 0800 LIFELINE (0800 543 354) or text ‘Help’ to 4357.