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Medical Director travels to US to research suicide prevention for doctors

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Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director for Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Ananta Dave will be visiting the United States this month to research how services are supporting and preventing suicide in healthcare professionals, as part of funding from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Dr Dave will be seeking to learn more about how the US has set up support services to treat doctors, and other healthcare professionals, with mental health and addiction problems. There are lots of good examples of how organisations have changed the culture in the medical profession and set up services and online communities to support professionals, which she hopes to learn more about and bring back ideas to the UK.

Dr Dave said:

Caring for the carers is vitally important if we are to safeguard our most precious resource in the NHS, the people who work for us.

Over the years, I have lost medical friends and colleagues to suicide and seen good people become traumatised by the work they do. I have also seen the devastation of suicide in the words, faces and grief of loved ones.

There remains significant shame, stigma and secrecy associated with doctors (nurses and other healthcare workers) seeking help and it is important that they have access to a sensitive, confidential service provided by trained competent clinicians. We need to speak up, help colleagues speak up and set up systems and services that work for them and I hope my research in this area will help the profession develop strong support systems in the future. I also look forward to being able to share the learning and good practice in our local trust and how we can continue to improve the wellbeing support we offer our staff.

The visit is funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, and Dr Dave is one of 150 fellows selected from almost 1,800 applications to receive the research grant. Each year the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust awards fellowships to carry out research projects overseas. Projects are designed to exchange ideas and best practice, and build greater understanding between peoples and cultures, in order that professions and communities can benefit from international collaboration.

Dr Dave will travel to the United States this weekend (13 July) and will spend six weeks meeting a wide range of professionals, patients and carers across the country as part of her learning.