Physician Suicide and Mental Health

I was talking to a medical student recently who said he didn’t want to do a residency in NYC because “everyone there kills themselves.”  I think that’s a little dramatic, although I do recall several years ago there was a rash of suicides in residents. I just read an excellent article on physician suicide. What’s sad is that if a physician really was feeling suicidal, I guarantee there’s no way they could seek counseling quickly that wouldn’t jeopardize their career and confidentiality–the only effective way would be to threaten suicide, which would take them to the ER and give them a record of suicidal behavior… a fate many proud physicians would consider worse than death.

I’m going to take a step further and say mental health treatment in this country is really bad.  This is not a jab at mental health professionals, who are probably fine individually… just saying there aren’t enough of them. The system is bad. If someone is feeling depressed or suicidal, they can call their local behavioral health center and maybe get an appointment in a month or two.  Hopefully they’re alive by then.

I had a few really down periods during my medical training, so I can speak to all this from experience. There were no mental health services available. At one point, when I was having a really hard time, I called some student health hotline, and the person told me that this wasn’t the purpose of the line. I asked where I could go, and they said such a service didn’t exist at the school. They talked to me a little, but it was clear that they were just doing it to be a good human being, and not because it was their job or something they were trained in.

So… I guess the takeaway is don’t get depressed because if you do, you’re shit out of luck.

Read more on the importance of mental health in students and mental health for health care professionals.

“Medical Schools and residency programs have shown the ability to address their patients’ mental health concerns and needs. What Medical Education as a community continues to struggle with is how to remove the perceived stigma attached to a current and/or future physician who avails him/herself of the same resources they would encourage their patients to take advantage of. Physicians, physicians-in-training and medical students are patients to someone. Yet, though they are in an extremely competitive and high-risk field, somehow it is perceived that they should not have the same needs as their patients.”

Originally syndicated from Dr. Fizzy’s blog with permission

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Dr. Fizzy

Freida McFadden is a midwestern physician who has finally finally finally come to the end of her grueling medical training, and at last she has enough time to publish the wealth of cartoons she's created over the years. If you enjoy them, please comment. If you don't enjoy them, then you can just keep your fool mouth shut. Read the rest at, and make sure to check out her books, A Cartoon Guide To Becoming A Doctor, and The Devil You Know, on Amazon!