Today 17th September is National Physician Suicide Awareness Day, commenced by the Council of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine (CORD) in the US and supported by multiple other medical organisations. Its motto is “Shine a Light. Speak its name”.
Research identifies that at any point in time 25-35% of doctors are clinically anxious or depressed, and in one year 37% experience high burnout, 72% high secondary traumatic stress and 10% think of suicide. Doctors have a considerably higher rate of suicide than the general population.
Causes do NOT reflect weaker character but most often stress, especially but not only in the workplace, and its consequences. Its risk is compounded by a failure to seek help because of fear of stigma and an inappropriate sense of shame and guilt that we as doctors must be strong, where in truth we are just as human as anyone else. Covid 19 has added very considerably to our stress.
Suicide is a devastating loss which seriously affects our families, friends, colleagues, and also our patients.
CORD in their Vision Zero statement call on “individuals, residency programs, healthcare organisations and national groups to make a commitment to break down stigma, increase awareness, open the conversation, decrease the fear of consequences, reach out to colleagues, recognise warning signs and learn to approach our colleagues who may be at risk”.
MAM has already explored and is working towards setting up a national programme of support for doctors.
Doctors, please take your health and that of your colleagues seriously. Do not engage in corridor consultations for yourselves. Please reach out, or support each other in reaching out, for proper help. For doctors in government service the Employee Support Programme can be reached on 2200 1210/4/6 and has a fast track for health professionals. For doctors who prefer otherwise, please reach out to a trusted colleague, GP, psychiatrist or psychologist.
Shine a Light. Speak its name.