Canadian Medical Association

When physicians develop and maintain strong professional relationships with their colleagues, in person and online, they improve their own wellness while helping to cultivate a culture of respect and collegiality in medicine.

The CMA Charter of Shared Values outlines the commitments physicians can make to each other to support their colleagues and encourage the creation of healthy training and practice environments. Making that kind of commitment goes a long way toward improving medical culture and destigmatizing mental illness.

How to know if a colleague needs help

Watch for these signs that a colleague may be in distress and need support:

Physical indicators

  • Deteriorated physical appearance or lack of personal hygiene
  • Excessive fatigue (e.g., falling asleep at work)
  • Changes in sleep patterns (e.g., insomnia, oversleeping)
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Visible cuts, bruises, burns or excessive sweating
  • Frequent or chronic headache, back ache or stiff neck/shoulder
  • Confusion, disorganization, or rapid or slurred speech
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Shakiness, tremors, fidgeting, twitching or pacing
  • Increased substance use

Behavioural and emotional indicators

  • Severe anxiety or irritability
  • Statements of distress (e.g., family problems, loss, financial problems, career concerns)
  • Difficulty controlling emotions (e.g., crying, short temper, aggressive comments)
  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness (e.g., low self-esteem, loss of interest, no sense of purpose) 
  • Loss of sense of humour
  • Excessively demanding or dependent behaviour
  • Withdrawal from peers, family or society
  • Lack of concentration
  • Reduced motivation
  • Indecisiveness or poor judgement

What to do when a colleague is unwell 

It’s not easy to see a colleague suffering, but there are ways you can help. Read our article on how to recognize and respond to distressed physicians for valuable information on how to recognize the signs of distress and offer the most appropriate support.

Are you in distress? Get help now.

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