Brett Sutton: ‘I felt awful as a father’

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton has opened up in a candid interview, revealing he felt ‘awful’ as a father during the coronavirus pandemic.

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton has revealed he “felt awful as a father” as he put his job ahead of his family during last year’s COVID-19 crisis in Victoria.

Professor Sutton was interviewed for the Taking Care podcast with Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young.

The health professionals spoke openly about their experiences of being leaders during the pandemic, how they coped and the impact on them and their families.

The COVID-19 pandemic required both doctors to make daily decisions, provide advice to government and build trust within the community.

They also had to front daily media briefings.

Professor Sutton spoke about the heavy burden of decision making with such far-reaching consequences, and the importance of his own family and other support mechanisms he relied on to handle pressure.

He credited his family, meditation practice and professional support services with helping him cope with the pressure.

But his “weeks of absence” had far-reaching consequences.

“There was grief with being with your family but not with your family, psychologically, putting my kids to bed, but my mind being elsewhere,” he said.

“I felt awful as a father, I felt I was with my children but absent for weeks and weeks on end.”

Dr Young said there was no rule book for working as a chief health officer through the pandemic and revealed she had received horrific death threats.

“I did get some pretty nasty death threats, but the response from the Premier and the police who then protected me, indeed the response from 99.9 per cent of Queenslanders, was fantastic,” she said.

Despite the intensity and seriousness of their work, both could also see the lighter side of the unforeseen ‘celebrity factor’ that came with being in the unavoidable media spotlight.

Mr Sutton said a man at Bunnings had approached him.

“He said ‘you look a lot like that …’ I nodded and said I am that guy, that annoying guy you see on TV every night,” Professor Sutton said.

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