It was just World Suicide Prevention Day, and Monday is National Suicide Awareness Day, so we thought it was prudent to discuss the ever pressing concern of physician suicide. Awareness has grown about the fact that doctors and medical trainees are at higher risk of dying by suicide than the general population. Most physicians know of a colleague or classmate that died by suicide, and those are the ones we know about. So many more are shrouded in shame and secrecy so our understanding of the gravity of the problem is a fragment of the truth.
The reasons for this are multifactorial including mental illness, college complaints and addiction; along with factors related to the culture of medicine such as the stigma associated with seeking help or the pressure to not make a mistake and be "perfect". Ultimately, the reasons are unique to each individual but the consequences are the same - a person who is a physician has ended their own life.
We realize that we're only scratching the surface here, but we want to convey a resounding message:
It's OK to ask for help and the physician community will continue to work towards solutions where physicians don't fear repercussions for doing so.
If you're concerned about someone, asking if they're OK may make all the difference and can potentially save a life.
Chipping away at the stigma with empathy and support can change the culture of medicine.
We have so much concern for this topic and hope that if we all continue to shed light on it, we can help lift some of the darkness that hides suicide.