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New program helps Virginia medical workers find mental health support

“We need to help the people who are helping us.”
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Posted at 5:52 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 11:54:22-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Unprecedented levels of burnout in the field of medicine were reported well before the COVID-19 pandemic started in Virginia. The virus has only exacerbated the critical and immediate need to help our frontline workers.

In March, Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation establishing the SafeHaven™, MSV’s Physician Well Being Program.

The program, operated by the Medical Society of Virginia and VITAL WorkLife, ensures physicians and physician assistants can seek mental health support without the fear of impacting their medical license.

“We wanted to make sure they felt safe to get the care that they needed,” said MSV CEO Melina Davis. “We need to help the people who are helping us.”

An estimated 300 to 400 doctors die by suicide each year, according to the American Psychiatry Association. That is a rate of 28 to 40 per 100,000 or more than double that of general population.

In a 2018 survey conducted by Merritt-Hawkins, 78% of physicians surveyed said they experience some symptoms of professional burnout.

MSV President Dr. Clifford Deal said physicians in particular are hesitant to seek help.

“Who does the captain of a ship confide in?” Dr. Deal explained. “We have to be strong for the patient, strong for the team, and strong in a lot of cases for our colleagues.”

SafeHaven is aimed at offering treatment before the problem worsens.

The resources are also available to the families of the physicians and physician’s assistants. MSV hopes to introduce legislation that will allow them to expand the program to include nurses, pharmacists, and other care workers in 2021.

MSV accepts donations in order to support the program and to provide scholarships for students.

Virginia Together: The Rebound Richmond campaign is here to help. Find information on who is hiring, investigations into unemployment payment issues, financial advice on making ends meet, and mental health advice on managing the pressures. These stories will be featured often on CBS 6 News and can be found by clicking this link.

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