How can physician suicide be prevented?

Updated: Aug 01, 2018
  • Author: Louise B Andrew, MD, JD; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Depression, like substance abuse, is not only more common in physicians than in the general public but also more readily treatable as a rule. This is because of physicians’ strong self motivation to continue successful pursuit of a professional calling, which is an important source of their self-esteem.

More education is needed regarding this disease and its disproportionate and needless toll on the medical profession, beginning in the earliest stages of physician training. [62] In addition, there is an urgent need to change the attitudes of those in health care (including those in the regulatory system), as well as the attitudes of the general public, toward mental illness. Such changes might encourage physicians to be more receptive to a diagnosis of depression and enable them to feel free to seek treatment without the fear of repercussion.

Physicians themselves need to be aware of the existence of physician health programs in nearly every state and province, which allow a physician who is compliant with treatment to avoid disclosing depression or other stable illnesses that do not interfere with ability to practice to licensing authorities. [63]  But they also need to be circumspect in dealing with these agencies, and to proceed with caution and full knowledge of the process before entering into it, because of the risk of being entailed into substance abuse programs, if no concomitant substance use disorder exists. [49]

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