A physician looking after their own wellbeing properly can seem like an impossible task sometimes for highly stressed and overworked medical professionals. The Florida Medical Association (FMA) and medical societies across the country are bringing attention to the issue through National Physician Suicide Awareness Day.
“Physician well-being is at the heart of the Florida Medical Association’s mission to help physicians practice medicine,” said FMA President Joshua D. Lenchus. “Yet, far too many physicians endure mental health distress in isolation because of lingering stigmas and structural obstacles that prevent them from seeking help — often with devastating consequences.
“Physicians have one of the highest rates of death by suicide among any profession, and one death is too many. As a National Physician Suicide Awareness Day supporting organization, the FMA is committed to normalizing discussions about mental health in medicine and providing physicians with actionable resources to help them cope during moments of crisis.”
As the FMA acknowledges, concerns about physicians’ mental health aren’t a new thing, but recent data shows the severity of the problem. More than half — 55% — of physicians who responded to a Physicians Foundation survey in 2021 said they knew of a colleague who thought of, attempted or died of suicide.
“Physicians are at a higher risk of suicide and suicidal ideation than the general population,” according to the American Medical Association (AMA). “Suicidal ideation has been associated with high workload volume and medical errors.
“Although previous research linked physician burnout to depression and suicide, a recent investigation suggests that burnout and depression are separate experiences, with distinct consequences for physicians and their patients. Physicians who experience suicidal ideation have been shown to be less likely to seek the help they need.”
As a place to start, the organizations involved with NPSA Day, collected a few specific resources at npsaday.org/share-suicide-prevention-resources.
“More than one in three physicians do not believe that suicide prevention resources for physicians exist and are easy to access,” according to the FMA. “However, physicians have identified who and what supports their mental health — confidential therapy, counseling, or support phone lines.”