Leo Sher, M.D.
Today, September 17, 2020 is the third Annual National Physician Suicide Awareness Day in the U.S. Each physician suicide is a devastating loss affecting family, friends, and colleagues. The Day is dedicated to honoring the memory of colleagues who have died by suicide and to continue to raise awareness and discussion on how to prevent suicide among physicians.
Up to 400 physicians die by suicide every year in the U.S. Male physicians have suicide rates somewhat higher than men in general. Female physicians’ suicide rates more than twice the rate of other similarly licensed women. In general, men die by suicide at rates four times that of the women. But for physicians the numbers are about even. Additionally, suicide is the second most common cause of death in medical residents.
Physicians are restrained in revealing their emotions and feelings which may contribute to higher rates of burnout, depression, and suicide. We need brave individuals to begin the discussion and break the ice. Individuals, residency programs, and health care organizations should make a commitment to break down stigma, open the conversation, reduce the fear of consequences, reach out to colleagues, recognize warning signs and learn how to approach our colleagues who may be at suicide risk. We need to advocate a culture of support, transparency and candidness.