Every year an estimated 400 U.S. physicians take their lives. Numerous global studies involving every medical and surgical specialty indicate that approximately 1 in 3 physicians is experiencing burnout at any given time. Medical students appear to be at an equal or higher risk of burnout, depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Because of the perceived and real risks associated with seeking help for such problems, many students, trainees, and doctors, and health care organizations fail to recognize, report, discuss, or pursue treatment for these conditions. The purpose of this paper is to shine a spotlight on this culture of silence, to understand the scope and complexity of the underlying issues, and to drive changes to deliver individual, organizational, and societal interventions that preserve and promote the physical and emotional health of care givers.
In the following four vignettes, care providers write candidly about their own experiences in hopes that sharing their stories will help break down the Culture of Silence.