Dr Teah Mogae
‘It is all a bit much for me Dr Teah. It just seems like the world is burning and I don’t know what to do!’ Samantha slouched on the patient chair next to me. ‘You know how much I had been campaigning for the Yes vote in the referendum which has failed, and the news is now full of the disaster zone that is Gaza. I cannot seem to escape the negative news,’ she exclaimed, almost coming to tears.
Samantha was a young Aboriginal woman, a bright medical student with a keen interest in General Practice who I had taken under my wing with the hope she could be MY doctor sometime in the future. She knew this ulterior motive of mine. With dwindling numbers of young doctors choosing to do General Practice I had to manage her as my patient as well as someone who could provide care to me and the community at large. She had started university in 2019 only to have her second year disrupted by the COVID19 pandemic which was closely followed by the war in Ukraine. Her experience of The Voice referendum as a First Nations woman was tainted with racist abuse. Patients and colleagues often started ‘conversations’ prompted by the Vote Yes and Indigenous flag badges she wore on her stethoscope as she did the rounds in the hospital. The recent war in the Middle East seemed to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back and she presented as worried about the future in general.
After a lengthy discussion exploring further details about her distress we developed a plan to try and manage the things she could control. She agreed to reduce her exposure to news channels or social media accounts that often show graphic images as they’re likely to increase her risk of vicarious trauma. She was to try and ensure the basics were managed well: sleep hygiene, a general daily routine, a healthy diet and exercise, as well as a gratitude journal to reflect on things she had the ability to influence. She knew that there was an option for seeing a counsellor professionally but elected to give these lifestyle changes a go for a few weeks to see if there was any improvement to her heightened state and subsequent grief associated with the referendum and its outcome. We both hoped that with time, we could all have a break from the collective trauma of witnessing and living through multiple disasters, climate change consequences and geo-political wars, each one rolling seamlessly into another one.
It seems that IS the most we can do at this time- when it all feels out of our hands.