Healthcare, ICU

Why Do Doctors Commit Suicide?  

Hello everybody, my dear friends.

Published in the pages of the opinion of the New York Times on September 4, 2014, by Pranay Sinha, I present this impressive article  the suicide of two residents during the month of September.

Photo by Anna Parini

The statistics are chilling: doctors commit suicide twice as much as the rest of the population, and if they are women, three times as much. In the United States, 400 doctors commit suicide a year being the most vulnerable young doctors at the beginning of its formation (up to almost 10% of the students have suicidal thoughts, according to a recent study).

The training programmes test the mental and physical stability of doctors: we work more than 80 hours a week during the residency. In a very few places consider this fact, since there are no programs that concern the welfare of workers.

Stress, social isolation, physical, and mental exhaustion. Pressure from your superiors and from the system. Responsibility increased exponentially in a short space of time, from student to exercise the Medicina. And lack of knowledge of limit situations, since it is common to think that a doctor does not need help and, can have no doubt.

The first months are filled with fatigue, which derives in clinical errors, and need close supervision. And often all this ends in self-isolation and unrecognized depression. And more doubts.

Perhaps we have to admit that sometimes we need help, like the rest of humans.
That we can put voice to silenced doubts and those fears. The sadness of certifying the first death of a patient, to the mortification of mistakes of prescription, to the shame of not knowing an answer.

We are not alone.

A tired and depressed doctor may never take good care of their patients. 
We will take care of us to be able to care for others.

by Gabi Heras, ICU Physician
*Re-posted with permission from:

2 thoughts on “Why Do Doctors Commit Suicide?  ”

  1. Thank you for posting this important and often overlooked statistic. Young doctors, residents, and medical students are the ultimate achievers; most are not well-practiced in any sort of failure or shortcomings. They’ve devoted their lives to getting to the point in their training where they have all the responsibility and pressure you describe. While many programs take steps to equip trainees with this foreknowledge, teaching the signs to recognize “troubling or precarious feelings” in themselves and others, etc., this does not prevent the overwhelming stress and inevitable self-directed disappointment from happening in the course of their evolution into doctors who can and do cope well with death, dying, mistakes, and ultimate failures of the best of intentions and available procedures. How can medical training programs do better to meet and address these signs and symptoms before they result in suicide attempts or successes? How can training be modified to be a more healthy lifestyle for residents? Are 80 hours/week really necessary to staff training facilities? Who wants a doc making critical decisions on so little sleep, etc.? I think these are legitimate questions. As with all the greater at-risk professions in our society, doctors need better care and the ability to admit, “I need help,” when indeed it is needed. Doctors are people too, and they’re particularly vulnerable due to the daily impact that their training and subsequent duties make on their emotional wellbeing.

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