PEI

Doctors face 'unique barriers' when seeking help for mental health

Physicians across Canada are struggling with their mental health, according to a recent publication in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and P.E.I. doctors say getting help can be especially difficult on the Island.

'You are the care provider in that community'

Doctors in small communities can struggle with the idea of taking time off. (sasirin pamai/Shutterstock)

Physicians across Canada are struggling with their mental health, according to a recent publication in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and P.E.I. doctors say getting help can be especially difficult on the Island.

The CMAJ study found about 30 per cent of doctors reported they were at risk of burnout, and that the suicide rates among doctors were more than double the general population's.

Dr. Kathie McNally, chair of the physician health committee with the Medical Society of P.E.I., said an internal survey found the risk of burnout on the Island was even higher than the national rate: 46 per cent. McNally said physicians in small communities can have a hard time getting the help they need.

And all physicians on P.E.I. practise in small communities.

"Physicians have unique barriers to seeking care compared to the general population," said McNally.

"If you're in a small community and you have health issues where are you going to get that care? You are the care provider in that community."

When making the decision to take time off, she said, doctors are aware that all the work that needed to be done while they were away will still be waiting for them.

"You just have more work to do than when you left," she said.

Care from the other coast

P.E.I. has moved to help doctors find support, creating a partnership with B.C. where doctors can access a variety of services remotely from that province. The service provides them a degree of anonymity, and allows them to get help — including peer support and counselling — without leaving their home community.

McNally said there is more that can be done, and she points to administrative work.

Keeping electronic records is taking up a significant amount of physicians' time, says Dr. Kathie McNally. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Electronic medical records, she said, have made a significant contribution to patient well-being, but they have also added significantly to physician workload. Research has estimated for every hour with patients, doctors spend two hours on the computer.

"When we brought in an electronic medical record I found myself sitting in front of a computer when I need to be sitting in front of a patient," said McNally.

"That's a big stressor. You know I can't. I don't have the time in my day."

McNally is hopeful the medical society will be able to work with the new government to work on this and other issues causing undue stress for doctors.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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