• Sara & Colin Taylor

Physician Mental Health in Numbers

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has made a lot of media headlines as of late - both positive and negative depending on your viewpoint - and recently, they released the results of a National Physician Health Survey. The results are, well, good and bad. The good is that it was conducted and seen as a priority; the bad is that the results reflect what all of us suspected - overall physician mental health is a significant concern.

To back it up a bit, physician health and burnout came to the forefront a few years ago and the first approach to address it pointed towards physicians needing to become more 'resilient'. Fortunately, enough evidence now supports that the main drivers of burnout aren't individual issues, but rather system issues, so interventions are being proposed to combine both individual and system level solutions.

Back to the results of the CMA survey which further support primarily system root causes. To summarize (you can also view a summary from the CMA here):

  • the majority of physicians and residents reported high resilience

  • more than one in four reported high levels of burnout

  • one in three screened positive for depression

  • residents were much more likely to report burnout and depression

  • women reported higher levels of burnout, depression and suicidal ideation

  • suicidal ideation overall was 8% in the last 12 months - we find this a particularly staggering number when you consider the severity of it

  • the majority of physicians are aware of available physician health programs but very few access them

So, this survey really confirms what we suspected from U.S. comparisons and the like and really points to the global issue that's surrounding us. Numbers are validating that the medical profession is in crisis but hopefully they also point out to everyone involved that they're far from alone. Now is the time for all of us to get in the ring and be a part of the solutions to the betterment of each and every medical student, resident and physician.

We always like to end with a fitting quote, and although this is a particularly long one, the message is bang on:

“One of the main barriers to turning knowledge into action is the tendency to treat talking about something as equivalent to actually doing something about it. Talking about what should be done, writing plans about what the organization should do, and collecting and analyzing data to help decide what actions to take can guide and motivate action. Indeed, rhetoric is frequently an essential first step toward taking action. But just talking about what to do isn’t enough. Nor is planning for the future enough to produce that future. Something has to get done, and someone has to do it.” ~ Jeffrey Pfeffer


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