By Erica Louise Photo Gary Sissons
When we struggle with our mental health we seek guidance from health professionals. But sometimes the examination table is turned and our doctor’s emotional health is compromised. We tend to forget that medics might have their own challenges. Dr Geoff Toogood, a cardiologist at Peninsula Private Hospital in Frankston, thinks it’s time to address the unfortunate stigma and discrimination faced by health professionals surrounding such topics.
Dr Toogood is the founder of the crazysocks4docs movement. This initiative calls upon people everywhere, to wear fun socks on the first Friday in June, to raise awareness and normalise the conversation that it’s ok for a doctor not to be ok.
The campaign happened by chance when Dr Toogood was recovering from a particularly bad episode of depression and anxiety, and wore colourful odd socks to work.
“Whilst recovering, I adopted a dog as therapy and company. My dog messed around with my socks and, one morning, I couldn’t locate a single matching pair. All I could find was a couple of mismatched socks and that’s what I wore to work that day.
I thought nothing of it but was astounded that so many people pointed out the “craziness” of my chosen footwear,” he said.
Dr Toogood thinks this reaction could have been due to a certain conservatism attached to those working in the medical sector. Most medical professionals choose to wear formal footwear. Or, maybe, the whispers around his crazy socks were connected to his history, and notable mental health struggles. Either way, he was astonished at the attention that one pair of crazy socks could raise.
“I wondered how I could turn this into some sort of action. It wasn’t a deliberate thing to create a movement but a couple of friends tweeted #crazysocks4docs on social media and the whole thing just took off,” he said.
Now in its 4th year, the campaign has gone global. Crazysocks4docs is an annual event. People all over the world, particularly in the health sector, wear funky footwear on the first Friday in June and share their choice of socks with the hashtag #crazysocks4docs on social media.
The crazysocks4docs date was set in June, being close to the winter solstice in Australia. Adding colour to one of the shortest days of the year would then lighten the mood of the country’s gloomier season. Dr Toogood had not expected the campaign to gain worldwide momentum.
“Originally, I just wanted to tweet out #crazysocks4docs on the day but the response has been terrific,” he said. “We had over 20 countries and people in every continent taking part in 2019, and 60 million hashtag views on twitter.”
Because the crazysocks4docs movement has gained global attention, there has been some concern over Dr Toogood’s choice of word “crazy.” Yet, he purposely used the word to point out that that “crazy” should not be used when referring to someone’s mental health.
“Just because I’m wearing crazy socks, doesn’t mean I’m crazy,” he says. “I wanted to use the word crazy and turn it around into something better.”
Crazysocks4docs is a day to raise awareness and release the stigma associated with the mental health of health professionals. Regardless of who you are or where you live, you are encouraged to don your funky socks on crazysocks4docs day.