With this week being recognized for mental health awareness, the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) is reminding physicians and health-care workers to reach out if they need help.
The president of the organization said those who work in health care deal with enough pressure and stressful environments as is. Add a global pandemic to the mix, and that job can become even more stressful.
“Over the last year and a half it’s been particularly stressful due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact that it has had on virtually everything that we do. We know even before this that the rate of burnout was significantly high and of course that has an impact on all aspects of physicians interactions and lives,” Dr. Eben Strydom said.
“I think everyone had hoped that this would be over by now,” Strydom added.
The Delta variant crushed any hopes that the pandemic would be over anytime soon.
“I think honestly, the intensity of what it was like over the last couple of months has been extraordinary. The disruption that it has not just on physicians, but on all health-care providers, specifically our nurses and respiratory therapists and everybody in the system — it’s just relentless.”
Strydom said the strain is being noticed throughout the system, from emergency rooms to elective surgeries being disrupted.
Strydom told Global News that SMA is making wellness and physician health a priority. SMA has been working on this priority for some time now, and Strydom thinks there was some resistance to it initially with the notion that physicians “don’t get sick.”
“But we know that that barrier has been broken down significantly. At this stage, I think there is an acceptance that you have to have a healthy physician to look after patients and keep them well.”
There has been more people consulting SMA’s Physician Health Program (PHP).
Strydom said PHP is a confidential support program available every day of the year to help physicians whenever they need it.
In 2020, 237 physicians and residents contacted the program, for a total of 358 people accessing PHP.
In the first nine months of 2021, PHP saw 210 new contacts for a total of 369 accessing the program.
Of the 369 individuals accessing the program, 31.2 per cent identify stress and/or burnout in the workplace. As well, 42 per cent presented with mental health struggles. A total of 24 per cent presented with occupational challenges and 15.7 per cent identified struggles in their personal relationships at home.
Strydom said it’s important for physicians to reach out if they are struggling.
“We need to make sure that people don’t continue when they are struggling and look for help because that does make a difference.”