National Academy of Medicine

Breaking the Culture of Silence on Physician Suicide

By Sandeep Kishore, Douglas E. Dandurand, Angela Mathew, and David Rothenberger
June 03, 2016 | Discussion Paper

TW: Suicide

If you are suicidal and need emergency help, call 911 immediately or 1-800-273-8255 if in the United States. If you are in another country, find a 24/7 hotline at www.iasp.info/resources/Crises_Centres.

Breaking the Culture of Silence

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.

This Perspective is written by members of the Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education. To view more papers written by members of this forum, please click here.

 

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Note

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.