Physicians are entrusted with providing care for their patients but are rarely counseled on their own mental health, particularly regarding suicide.
Each year in the U.S., approximately 400 physicians die by suicide at a rate more than twice the national average. For physicians aged between 25 and 39, suicide accounts for 26% of all deaths vs.11% in the same age group in the general population.
While increased rates of physician burnout are associated with increased rates of moderate depression, there is no evidence that work-related stress is associated with the higher rates of suicide among physicians. Factors that may contribute to these higher rates include greater access to means of suicide (such as specific potentially lethal medications) and the stigma surrounding physicians seeking mental health treatment, particularly fear of judgment from colleagues.
For the medical profession to ensure the best care for patients, there needs to be a greater awareness of this increased risk among physicians and efforts to reduce the stigma surrounding seeking help – starting in medical school.
The medical community can help the young doctor to continue saving lives, instead of taking his own. Graduating from medical school and starting residency training should be one of the most exciting times in a physician’s career. They represent a tragic and rarely discussed phenomenon in the medical profession: Doctors commit suicide at a rate more than twice the national average. Every year approximately 400 physicians take their own lives.