Physician Suicide (Part 1): How do we improve the statistics?

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This is a topic I have been asked to write about due to my passion and dedication to improving the lives of my physician clients and the level of burnout they experience during their career.  Yes, it is quite a serious topic and yet I do believe that if we talk about it, with no judgment and an open mind to multiple solutions, that the statistics will significantly improve.

Recently, I was receiving an abundance of google alerts in my inbox about the rise in suicide rates or attempts of suicide for people in the medical profession.  And right away, my mind went into “what can I do to improve the statistics?

According to Medscape, on average, as many as 400 physicians in the United States are lost to suicide each year.  That’s over 1 physician per day.  That’s quite astounding!  (And imagine the ripple effect of how many lives those suicides negatively impact!!  WOW!)

I asked myself the question of “what can I do to improve the statistics”, not only because I devote a good percentage of my career to coaching physicians and helping them pivot the burnout to having more joy and peace in their life, but also because the statistician in me from my corporate days knows that if there is an open and honest discussion about this, without any shame attached to sharing and without making it taboo to discuss, that valuable data can be collected which can lead to viable solutions.

Is feeling burnout a choice or just part of the job?

Is feeling burnout a choice or just part of the job?

So, off I went to collect some data.

I have been conducting phone interviews with many of the physicians who have opted in to receive my free Rx for Physician Burnout report and have been discovering quite a few insightful answers as to why some physicians take their own lives and opt to escape the stressors that are unique to the profession.

Many of the physicians I spoke to indicated that the top contributors to physicians committing suicide are:

* Isolation   * Burnout  * Complacency   * Lack of support

* Lack of autonomy    * Fatigue   * Frustration  * Depression

* Changes in society   * Less respect for Physicians

One of the physicians I interviewed even stated one of the reasons to be … “expectations of Americans – they want what they want when they want it – patients are not appreciative any more.”

Now, each of these reasons could have their own article or blog post (which I will be writing at a later date), but for now, it’s important to address what family members can do to help loved ones who are on that slippery slope of burnout and what you as a physician can do as well.

  1. You must be able to recognize the signs.
  2. As a family member, my interview results can help you to understand how your physician loved one may feel and could indicate warning signs that could lead to viable solutions before it gets too far.
  3. As a physician, you need to be aware of what your mind and body are telling you.  If there is an inner voice that says “something needs to change soon or else …” or if you notice that other areas of your life are imploding and degrading due to your high level of stress from your work environment, then that’s a sign to stop, reach out for help and make NOW the time where your own overall health and well-being is your #1 priority.

It’s important to note, that some of the physicians I interviewed actually thought about committing suicide, so they are speaking from that energy mindset of what led them to even think about taking their own lives.  I will discuss in Part 2 of this blog more details from my interview and some clear cut simple solutions to start making a positive change away from burnout, towards an improved sense of wellbeing.

It’s a damn shame what really goes on in the medical profession and what is expected of human beings that have an extraordinary job of taking care of the health and well-being of society!

It appears that society forgets that physicians are human too. 

If you are a physician, I want you to know that I am here to support you.  Use me as a resource and apply today for a complimentary Rx for Physician Burnout Breakthrough Session … just click here.

Be sure to come back to check out the second post in this physician suicide blog series where I will share with you more detailed information on how we can improve the statistics of physician suicide and burnout!

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