Why Are Doctors Killing Themselves?
“Almost 400 doctors a year are committing suicide in the United States alone.”
Today is National Suicide Prevention Day.
‘Suicide risk’ is something we seem to only assess our patients for but almost never ourselves. This is wrong. And it’s killing us.
Late last year, in one week, two trainee physicians committed suicide in nearby hospitals. This of course is tragic but what shocked me most was the response of one of my senior colleagues when I relayed the news to them.
“Yeah, it’s about that time of year alright.”
Its not that he wasn’t being empathetic to the incident, it was that it seemed to him, that after all his years in medicine, this was just another round of trainee physicians being put through the mill and once again, some just didn’t make it.
The growing sentiment of physician dissatisfaction is lost on no one in healthcare. The bigger problem is that most just seem to accept it. They feel that there is little that can be done to change things.
In this Septembers issue of Time magazine, an article was published entitled ‘Doctors on Life Support’.
The article was important for two reasons:
- Almost 400 doctors a year are committing suicide in the United States alone; that’s between 2 – 3 graduating medical school classes a year.
- Practically nothing is being done about it.
Granted the article does describe the efforts of physicians who aim to highlight and address the issue. But they struggle to get every penny in support of their cause.
This is just wrong.
That we have allowed incredibly passionate, dynamic and brilliant individuals be crushed by their profession is a tragedy. Especially when that professions motto is to ‘First, Do No Harm’; seems a little ironic.
The time is over due that we as a community of physicians examines the gross inadequacies of our profession. We continually go the extra mile to serve the needs of our patients but routinely ignore our own. Although well intentioned, the lifespan of such an approach is limited and I believe we have run out of road.
The Doctor Paradox was created to address these issues. Not just the deficiencies of our training and work lives, but the opportunities we have to change them; to rediscover the passion that motivated us to embark on this noble path.
To change a system, particularly in healthcare is not easy. But maybe we can begin by changing ourselves. Not by toughening up and enduring, but by opening up to the possibility that ‘better’ is possible, because it is. It has to be.
To start this process, The Doctor Paradox podcast will examine in more detail how we have found ourselves here. But more importantly, how we can transform ourselves and maybe the system; to allow us rediscover that passion we once had but may have lost.
In general we are a resilient group. We wouldn’t have gotten this far if we weren’t.
However, each and every one of us has struggled at some point. You’re not alone on that one.
Imagine your Final Medical School graduation photo. Now imagine them all gone.
That’s how important it is we address this.