Physician health matters: A mental health strategy for physicians in Canada
A physician mental health strategy is one of the four pillars of the Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA) mental health plan, but is also a stand-alone strategy reflecting the CMA’s long-standing interest and leadership in the health and well-being of Canadian physicians. The strategy proposes a framework for a multi-year, collaborative endeavour that the CMA will pursue to optimize the mental health of physicians, residents and medical students. The need for a strategy is evident from the burden of mental health issues and illness among practising physicians and trainees. Although the overall physical health of physicians is quite good, a significant proportion experience distress associated with mental or emotional issues. Physicians’ rates of depression and alcohol misuse are similar to those of the general population and their rate of suicide exceeds that of the general public. Physicians experience numerous types of stressors related to the nature of medical work, as well as systemic issues associated with the structure and functioning of our health care system. Although increasing efforts have been made to provide services and programs to promote and protect the mental health of physicians, a range of barriers continues to exist. These include the culture and stigma surrounding mental illness, as well as confidentiality and licensing concerns. Physicians with mental illness tend to be treated differently than physicians with physical illness and an insufficient distinction is often made between mental illness and inability to practise medicine.
CMA Board Working Group on Mental Health, CMA Physician Mental Health Strategy Working Group