Physician suicide is a health care tragedy. Every year at least 300 docs take their own life, the equivalent to 2 full medical school classes a year. It is still a taboo subject to talk about, which makes getting support difficult.
I should know. I had my own episode of suicidal ideation during my intern year. I’ve spoken about it openly over the years, partly for catharsis and partly for prophylaxis. Having survived the darkest moments of my life, having come out the other side with a higher sense of purpose and peace, I want to be a beacon of hope and promise to any other doc facing such darkness themselves.
Why would a doctor, someone with “success” and “prestige”, even consider suicide? Where do I begin? First, we are human. We get depression and anxiety too. Second, every day of our lives we feel the weight of being responsible for the health and wellbeing of thousands of people. Add to that the worsening landscape of the business of medicine, insurance companies dictating care and payments, computer busy work taking up more of our time than patient care, the list goes on and on. The better question really is, how could we NOT buckle under all this strain?
I don’t presume to know the answers to these questions. I just know that we need to start finding them. We need to start pulling together as colleagues and as a society to protect those who heal everyone else. We need light and transparency and hope to filter into these discussions, rather than leaving our colleagues to suffer in silence in the dark.
I share my story in detail in a series of podcasts on the PHYSICIANS ON PURPOSE podcast. Here’s the link to the first episode, where I share my journey to the dark side and back into the light. 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.