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Watch for signs of distress in weeks and months after bus crash, SMA Physician Support Programs director says

As the effects of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash recede with time, physicians who were affected by the incident should be mindful to signs that they could be in distress weeks and even months after the fact, says Brenda Senger, the SMA’s director of Physician Support Programs.

“Ask yourself how are you doing? And if you’re not sure how you’re doing please ask your colleagues and spouse because they’ll tell you. They know,” Senger said.

“Watch for signs and seek help. Reach out, ask for what you need, don’t hide that you’re struggling because that will only intensify the impact.”

She said the signs to watch for include:

  • Are you irritable or short-tempered?
  • How’s your sleep?
  • Are you finding yourself in tears at inappropriate times?
  • Are you feeling emotionally numb?
  • Are you triggered by things such as walking into the hospital or seeing news coverage?
  • Are you withdrawing from others?

Physicians can reach out to the SMA’s Physician Health Program provides confidential assistance to physicians who are struggling in their personal or professional lives.

People think they are in touch with their feelings and self-aware, when in fact they may not be, Senger noted.

“What I have found is that most of us have limited self-awareness,” she said. “People think they’re doing really well and they’re not even aware that they aren’t. They’re not even aware that they were impacted by this trauma. They’re not aware that what’s happening to them today could be in relation to that.”

Sixteen people have died as a result of the April 6, 2018, crash between the Broncos’ bus and a semi at the intersection of highways 35 and 335. Thirteen people on the bus suffered injuries. The victims were stabilized and treated in hospitals in Nipawin, Tisdale and Melfort before being airlifted to hospitals in larger centres such as Saskatoon.

Stranded emotionally

In the initial aftermath of the crash, support and worldwide attention was showered on Humboldt and the people who responded to it, including first responders, emergency personnel and health-care workers. But while life begins to return to routine for many, some people are left in distress, Senger said.

“The withdrawal of the intensity of the supports leaves some people feeling stranded emotionally. Because the acute phase is over, now people who are struggling in silence may be uncomfortable saying, ‘I don’t think I’m coping really well with this.’ ”

She suggests physicians, whether they played a role in attending to the injured that night or not, recognize possible signs that they are in distress and reach out for help. And if they feel a colleague is struggling, reach out to that person.

Brenda Senger can be reached at 306-244-2196, 1-800-667-3781 or at For contact information on Physician Health Program committee members, click here. Log in to the members' area of the website, go to News & Resources, then click on the Resources and Guidance box and go to the  Physician Support box for contact information on committee members.

The SMA has created a dedicated resources page for those affected by the tragedy. It can be found by clicking here

If you require immediate medical assistance, visit your local hospital emergency room.

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