More on Physician Suicide

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The Role of Hopelessness, Helplessness and Defeat

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Michael Lawrence Langan, M.D.

Boston, Massachusetts

Disrupted Physician


Although no reliable statistics yet exist, anecdotal reports suggest a marked rise inphysician suicide in recent years. From the reports I am receiving it is a lot more than the oft cited “medical school class” of 400 per year.

This necessitates an evaluation of predisposing risk factors such as substance abuse and depression, but also requires a critical examination of what external forces may be involved.  What acute and cumulative situational and psychosocial factors are involved in the descent from suicidal ideation to planning to completion?   What makes suicide a potential option for doctors and what acute events precipitate and trigger the final act?

Depression and Substance Abuse no Different from General Population

The prevalence of depression in physicians is close to that of the general population1,2 and, if one looks critically at the evidence based literature, substance abuse in medical professionals approximates that of the…

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4 Responses

  1. James Jeffrey Bradstreet MD

    Anti-vaccine doctor behind ‘dangerous’ autism therapy found dead.

    Family cries foul.



  2. Caring for Caregivers
    [Boards can improve engagement through support, recognition and education]

    Knowing why physicians disengage is essential to understanding the physician world and resulting attitudes and behaviors. Numerous articles and reports have pointed to the frequency and impact of stress and burnout on physicians, which affects more than 50 percent of the physician population, according to a 2012 Archives of Internal Medicine article.

    As we know, physicians make the worst patients. They are so driven that they either don’t recognize that they are working under stress, they ignore the fatigue or physical or emotional consequences or, if they do realize that they are stressed, they feel as though they can handle it themselves. Even when physicians recognize that they need help, many are reluctant to ask for it because of their egos and stoicism, a concern about perceptions of their competency or worries about confidentiality.

    To address these situations, trustees and executives need to be more proactive in providing administrative and emotional support. This will help to keep physicians energized, satisfied and more engaged in the care delivery process. Many of these services can be provided internally through human resources, wellness committees and employee assistance programs or outsourced to vendors that specialize in these areas.

    Finally, trustees should take the time to acknowledge physicians’ efforts and recognize the time, effort and contributions they make. Simply ask them how they are, show them respect and thank them for the services they provide.

    Alan H. Rosenstein MD


  3. Physician Suicide Letters Answered Paperback
    [By Pamela Wible MD – Author]

    Dr. Wible exposes the pervasive and largely hidden medical culture of bullying, hazing, and abuse that claims the lives of countless medical students, doctors, and patients. Now—for the first time released to the public—here are private letters and last words from our doctors.

    Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA


    National Suicide Prevention Week 2020
    Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA


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