Mother raises awareness about mental illness in healthcare sector on R U Ok? day after losing daughter to depression

Mother raises awareness about mental illness in healthcare sector on R U Ok? day after losing daughter to depression
  • PublishedSeptember 15, 2023

The first time Indrani Tharmanason shared her daughter Tasha’s story was in March 2021, almost 10 months after losing the young doctor to depression and suicide.

Indrani wearing a saree stands next to Tasha who is wearing a graduation cap, both smile looking at the camera.
Indrani with daughter Tasha at her graduation in 2017.(Supplied: Indrani Tharmanason)

Determined not to let her daughter’s life go unmarked, Indrani, her friends and family formed a team called Travelling with Tash and embarked on adventures with the aim of paying tribute to the young woman while raising awareness around mental health issues in the healthcare sector.

The first event involved riding bikes through 55kms of hilly, dirt covered tracks in the Gravel Giro at Warburton.

Next, a 30-kilometre charity fundraising Coastrek walk in Mornington Peninsula in 2022.

A third event, cycling along Mt Arapiles, will get underway in October during Mental Health week.

Indrani uses such events as a fundraiser for Beyond Blue and as a way to increase awareness of the impact of depression on young medical workers.

“Tasha loved medicine,” she said.

“She loved the hospitals … she really loved the patients, being able to make a difference in their lives,” Indrani said.

She loved her day-to-day work, but she was stressed by the fear of not getting accepted into specialist paediatrics training – something the junior doctor had always dreamt of.

“From so young, she decided she wanted to be a doctor,” Indrani told News Breakfast.

“It gave her purpose and meaning in her life. And she really committed to it through [the] tough, tough process.”

“What really stressed her out was the stigma there.”

She always carried that deep anxiety about if they found out about her depression and anxiety, would that just be a black mark against her getting to the next stage?”

Tasha was 28 when she experienced such intense depression and anxiety about her career that she chose suicide in June 2020.

Now on R U OK? day, Indrani is once again pushing for better support for professionals in the medical industry.

“I think certainly one of the factors for Tash was that she found it very, very difficult to talk about her feelings,” she said.

Indrani says there’s an urgent need to talk about the extent of mental health issues in the medical industry.

Australian research published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows female doctors take their own lives at 2.27 times the rate of the general population, and male doctors at a rate of 1.41 times the general population.

Indrani stresses the importance of accepting that doctors also face wellbeing issues.

A study of more than 9,000 healthcare workers during the pandemic found 57 per cent of the workforce was struggling with depression, almost 60 per cent with anxiety and more than 70 per cent with moderate to severe burnout.

“We need to accept that if a doctor has anxiety, it doesn’t mean they are a bad doctor.”

“They may even make for better doctors … they can understand what so many of their patients are going through.”

Tasha sitting outside with a backdrop of mountains and posing with her hands next to her face.
Indrani said Tasha was always game to try new things.(Supplied: Indrani Tharmanason)

As she gets on her bike on October 7, along with 30 others from team ‘Travelling with Tash’, Indrani hopes more people join her in raising awareness for medical practitioners facing mental illness.

“Better yet join the ride, cycling is good for mental health, especially with nature around.”


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