Suicide Among Physicians

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Presenting Author(s): Dr. Salim Hamid, MD, FRCPC

Date and time: 23 Mar 2019 from 15:20 to 15:40

Location: Wildrose Salon C  Floor Map

Objectives

  1. Enhancing the knowledge of audience towards the sensitive topic of suicide among their colleagues;
  2. Audience becoming aware of importance of recognizing and seeking help for their own mental health; and
  3. Better to help and treat their physician patients.

Literature References

  1. Vogel L. Physician suicide still shrouded in secrecy.
  2. Sansone RA, Sansone LA. Physician suicide: a fleeting moment of despair. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2009 Jan;6(1):18.
  3. Gold KJ, Sen A, Schwenk TL. Details on suicide among US physicians: data from the National Violent Death Reporting System. General hospital psychiatry. 2013 Jan 1;35(1):45-9.

Abstract

Suicide rates are highest in the medicine, as compared to any other profession, with double the suicide rate compared to members of
the general population. The statistics are more marked among female physicians (1). It is important to explore this phenomenon in
hopes of determining risk factors and targeting strategies to help reduce these alarming figures.

Several factors have been hypothesized to contribute to suicide among doctors. Included among these are mental illness, substance
abuse, toxic work culture and certain personality trains (2). It can be argued that there is a mentality that discourages conversations
about mental health, leading to self-medication and absence of help seeking. Studies have shown that 3 quarters of physicians who
completed suicide had no diagnosis or formal treatment before death (2). The stressful and demanding doctor lifestyle is also a
contributing factor. Certain personality traits such as perfectionism, self-criticism, obsessiveness, and achievement mindedness may
make this group vulnerable towards suicide. They may be less likely to ask for help if they are struggling due to these factors. Another
related factor may be mental illness stigmatization.

At this point, there is still a huge stigma. It has been hypothesized that physician suicides are actually higher than reported, as stigma
may warrant death to be recorded as something other than suicide (3). Efforts should be aimed at reducing the stigma of mental health
in the medical profession, implementing programs to reduce physician stress, as well as an awareness of risk factors in ourselves and
colleagues.



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