In recognition of the unique demands COVID-19 is placing on the medical profession, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is launching a new Wellness Support Line.
Beginning today, this specialized support line will provide 24/7 mental health support and counselling to physicians, residents, medical students and their immediate family, to complement existing resources provided through provincial and territorial physician health programs.
“Even before COVID-19, medicine was a high-stress profession and physician wellness often suffered. Today, the pressures have multiplied — a shortage of PPE, demanding hours, changing practice protocols, and the constant threat of contracting the virus can all lead to distress.” — CMA President Dr. Sandy Buchman.
This support line, funded by Scotiabank and MD Financial Management, will help provide equitable access to physician wellness supports across Canada.
According to the 2017 CMA National Physician Health Survey, 30% of physicians reported high levels of burnout, and 1 in 3 physicians screened positive for depression. A recent CMA member survey in April of this year — six weeks after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic — revealed 74% of respondents were experiencing anxiety over PPE supplies.
The Wellness Support Line is being offered in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and Nunavut – through partnerships with the provincial/territorial medical associations in these areas. Other regions in Canada currently offer highly tailored, established services, which will continue to support their physicians.
The support line is the latest in a series of CMA initiatives to support physicians’ well-being and mental health.
Building on the data collected in the National Physician Health Survey, and a subsequent 2019 report on occupational stressors, the CMA established a physician wellness team − led by the former medical director of wellness at the Ottawa Hospital, Dr. Caroline Gérin-Lajoie – and reached out directly to members in 2019 and 2020 about ways to improve their wellness. The need for more supports was a key takeaway.
The Wellness Support Line is fully bilingual, with ongoing support in multiple languages. The service is offered through Morneau Shepell, and all calls are fielded by counsellors trained to address the specific needs of medical professionals. You do not need to be a CMA member to access the service, which begins June 15, 2020.
The Wellness Support Line was sunset on Nov. 30, 2022.