Physician suicide is a health care tragedy. So many physicians suffer in silence and roughly 300 a year will take their own life to end their suffering.
What makes it so hard to accept help when a physician is struggling? The intensity of the darkness that fills your mind and soul are so bleak, it’s hard to even put into words. The level of pain that you physically and mentally feel are so overwhelming, it doesn’t seem right to put that burden on anyone else. The concept that we are care-takers, not care-receivers, is one that is hard to break. Shame, guilt, embarrassment are hard to break through. Fear of consequences to your career is real.
Given all that, what is one to do if you are concerned about a colleague, friend, or loved one?
I think the most important thing you can do is just keep showing up. My mentor Dr Dike Drummond often says that if/when you do reach out to somone, expect intense denial..and keep reaching out anyway. A simple phrase of, “I’m worried about you and I’m here to listen” can be a good place to start. Said enough times, the message may actually be heard and responded to.
In part 2 of a series on the PHYSICIANS ON PURPOSE podcast, I, along with Dr Pam Pappas, share our insights as to what would have helped us in our times of darkness. It’s not an easy story to listen to, but I hope that sharing it sheds a light and brings some light to those that listen to it.
Here’s the link to the second episode.