An article regarding physician suicide on KevinMD.com this month caught my eye. The author, Tista Ghosh MD outlines startling statistics regarding physician depression and suicide rates in the U.S.:
· A 2018 literature review found the physician suicide rate to be double the average
· Women physicians in the U.S. have twice the suicide rate of other working women.
As the current chief medical officer of Colorado’s state health department, Dr. Ghosh concludes her article with this sobering statement: “Physician suicide is an occupational health crisis that’s every bit as alarming as occupational cancers or pulmonary diseases. It deserves the same attention.”
We are often unaware of the deep burdens of depression people all around us carry. Many of us might never suspect that the doctor we visited last week was in a state of mind where they may be considering ending their life in suicide
. It’s estimated that more than a quarter of the people you pass on the street every day are experiencing severe problems and possible depression.
Awareness is the most important first step for making significant inroads toward addressing the depression and suicide challenges that continue to grow all around us. Listen to people’s language carefully. Look in their eyes. Get a sense for where they are emotionally.
If you suspect they are in a dark place, always take it seriously. It may be a temporary, passing patch of the blues. But, it might also be something much more serious and long-lasting. Telling someone to “just buck up and smile” may only compound the problem.
Empathize with them, and ask what you can do that would most helpful. Listening and reflecting can be immensely helpful. And if you find or suspect they are seriously depressed, urge them to seek professional help, or call a suicide crisis line.
You could just save a life you didn’t even know needed saving.