Just over a week ago, I read an obituary in a medical publication about a young talented and clearly lovely junior doctor (not pictured above). Her life and achievements were celebrated, but naught to mention was made of the cause of her untimely death. Some colleagues and I surmised it was suicide, but then we wondered why it was it was not mentioned in the obituary? At the time it felt as though there was an embargo on talking about doctor suicide, and we wondered why. There is a shame about discussing it in public, and if this is the case then how can we possibly learn about the things that lead to suicide in our colleagues? We discuss medical cases openly so that we might learn, but why not of our colleagues who reach a point of no return? Subsequently it has been confirmed in the media that the death was indeed a suicide, but it was not mentioned in the medical publication.
It is well known that doctors do have a higher rate of suicide than the general public. These results have been reported as being up to 5.7 times higher than the general public, with female doctors being at the greatest risk, with rates between 2.27–5.7 times higher than the general public.
These results are quite staggering, but to speak truthfully, the fact that we have suicide at all in the profession is indicative of a deep dis-ease in our profession.
It concerns me to question:
How is it that can we have people who are caring and sensitive by nature, who choose to do medicine to care for people, ending up so despairing of life and caring so little for themselves that they take their own life?
And worse, that their colleagues and medical friends do not notice their decline to that point and are often completely surprised to hear of the death of a colleague in such a fashion.
How can this possibly occur in a system about health ‘care’?
These suicide statistics have been known for some time yet until now, no true action has been undertaken.
The NSW Health Minister has now instructed his staff that they have 1 month to find a solution to the doctor suicide crisis. It is great to see urgency brought to this matter, but is 1 month really enough and will it really get to the root of the cause? Continue reading