On National Physician Suicide Awareness Day, doctors raise the alarm on physician deaths

Even as health professionals battle Current COVID-19 pandemicWith more than 300 Americans dying each day on average from the virus, doctors across the country are raising awareness of the growing epidemic of suicides within their ranks.

Saturday, September 17 is National Medical Suicide Awareness Day. It is a day that marks a sobering fact: doctors have a higher suicide rate than the general population, according to an article published in the scientific journal. plus one.

Doctors dying by suicide mean patients lose good doctors. The rising number of suicides is a public health crisis, health professionals say.

According to a 2019 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, depressed doctors may also make more medical errors. Many doctors are hesitant to seek treatment due to stigma and fear of losing their jobs.

“It’s a culture that rewards toughness” and “the emphasis is on taking care of others, not oneself,” said Dr. Mimi Winsberg, a psychiatrist and medical director of Brightside, an online therapy organization.

Dr. Sansea Jacobson, a psychiatrist and director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, says suicide is more likely to occur when multiple risk factors accumulate.

“And more importantly, when mental health issues are not or are not being addressed,” Jacobson said.

He added, “As physicians, we know we have all the stressors and risk factors of the general public. Plus, we have our own unique stressors like the pandemic, patient deaths, medical errors, and medical malpractice lawsuits.”

In response to the crisis, President Joe Biden signed the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act into law in March. The law establishes grants to promote and study ways to improve mental health for health care providers.

The bill is named after Dr. Lorna Breen, an ER doctor who committed suicide in April 2020, at the start of the pandemic. She may have feared losing her medical license and received no help, according to a foundation created in her honor.

The Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation recently helped throw ALL INa campaign that hopes to remove questions about mental health from the forms that doctors fill out before obtaining a medical license.

There are several steps a doctor, or anyone facing a mental health crisis, can take, experts say.

“The first thing to do is get an evaluation. I always say that’s what gets measured, gets managed, so I think understanding the scope of what you’re feeling is very important. And then the second thing is to seek help,” she said. Winsberg.

One positive aspect of the pandemic is that it has raised awareness of these issues, Winsberg said. She added: “Reducing stigma has made it more normal to express feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety. I hope that extends to the medical profession as well.”

Physicians can contact the Physician Support Line at 1 (888) 409-0141. The free and confidential hotline connects physicians with psychiatrists from 8:00 am to 1:00 am ET, 7 days a week.

Anyone with mental health problems is also encouraged to dial 988, a national number to connect with the Crisis and Suicide Lifeline.

Evelyn Huang, MD is a resident physician in emergency medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and a member of the ABC News medical journalism rotation.

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