Accessing mental health in Canada, published May 11, 2017 from Stats Canada
The purpose of this post isn’t to scare you, but the statistics speak for themselves. 50% of people suffering from mental illness don’t get the help they need. If you eliminate access to care difficulties, the most commonly cited reasons are fear of negative comments from friends and family, and repercussions from work. As a physician assistant student, you are a part of the healthcare force that the general population looks to for help and your behaviour and comments about mental health can help reduce the stigma. 88% of healthcare workers are experiencing symptoms of mental illness; these are your colleagues, your peers, and maybe yourself.
One in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem this year. Nearly 20% of Canada’s population, 6.7 million people, live with mental illness. That figure is nearly double the number of people living with type-2 diabetes (2.2 million) and heart disease (1.4 million) combined, diseases considered to be at epidemic levels in today’s society.
But what about the people treating this crisis? There are approximately 1.7 million people working in the Canadian healthcare system. In a national study, 88% of healthcare workers reported insomnia, headaches, depression, weight changes, and panic attacks related to work stress.
Over 40% of physicians and residents report feeling that they are in the advanced stages of burnout, with one study reporting burnout rates as high as 75%. The numbers are similar for nurses, with an additional 14% testing positive for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Although no Canadian data exists for physician assistants, US studies report similar findings of burnout for practicing PAs and PA students.
When compared to workers in all other sectors, Canadian healthcare workers are 1.5 times more likely to be off work due to illness or disability, with studies estimating that over half of those are related to mental illness. Further, physicians commit suicide at rates two to three times higher than the average population.