On July 15, 2014,The Washington Post published an article “When your doctor commits suicide, things get complicated.” The author, family physician Pamela Wible, who has also given a TEDx talk to break the silence on physician suicide, highlighted several factors that contribute to the medical profession’s high rate of depression and suicide and laid out “etiquette rules” for addressing the issue. These were 1) Never ignore doctors’ cries for help, 2) Avoid blaming and shaming, and 3) Offer compassion and empathy, so doctors know they are not alone.
Among the reasons for medical student and physician burnout that Dr. Wible listed were the constant witnessing of pain, the view that seeking help is a sign of weakness, and concerns over potential loss of license and hospital privileges if a doctor visits a psychiatrist. The article pointed out a physician wellness program created by Lane County Medical Society in Eugene, OR, which offers free 24/7 access to psychologists, and no fears of privacy breaches or loss of credentials. The program has received 131 calls by doctors, and no suicides in two years.
AFSP supports efforts to encourage help-seeking and reduce the stigma of mental illness, especially among physicians, who complete suicide at much higher rates that the general public.
To read the article, click here.
For statistics on physician suicide compiled by AFSP, see here.