By: Heather A. Wilson, MSW, CFRE, CAE
When I speak on behalf of the Physicians’ Health Program to medical staffs and medical students, I find that most of my audience knows the statistic – almost 400 physicians annually die by suicide. Generally, most have heard the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention data that the suicide rate for male doctors is 1.41 times higher than the general population, and for female doctors it’s 2.27 times greater. When I question if that is acceptable, everyone shakes their head “no”. When I ask, “what are we going to do about that?”, I often hear an uncomfortable silence.
September is National Suicide Awareness month and September 17, 2021, is designated as National Physician Suicide Awareness Day. On this day, the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED), the Foundation of the Pennsylvania Medical Society (Foundation) and county medical societies across the Commonwealth will partner from 9: 00 AM to 9: 00 PM EST to raise the collective consciousness of our medical communities imploring physicians to seek support and not suffer in silence.
Often, physicians take better care of their patients than they do of themselves, sacrificing relationships and personal wellbeing. Our “Not One More Doc” campaign will provide a forum for physicians to raise their voices to speak against the dangerous stigma about mental health for those who are on the front lines of helping and healing individuals across our state and nation.
The antecedents to physician suicide are complex and often require different actions from different constituencies operating at different levels. Daily, the Foundation, PAMED and County Medical Societies diligently advocate for systemic change to address genuine threats that contribute to physician burnout, depression and moral injury.
One more physician life lost to suicide is one too many. On September 17, I encourage you to join our “Not One More Doc” campaign on Facebook. Together, let us compassionately remember those who are gone too soon and provide hope and resources to those who are suffering.
Heather A. Wilson, MSW, CFRE, CAE