I still remember exactly where I was when suicide first touched my life. I was in my second year of residency. I was sleeping. It was 2 am two days before Christmas when I received the call from my mom. I can’t explain why, but I knew immediately. This started my journey into wondering why doctors kill themselves.
Early on in the life of this website, I have posted about mental illness. Why? Because it is an important, not-discussed-enough, and poorly solved problem that has profound impacts in and out of medicine. Yet, despite my desire to make this a more publicly discussed topic, I was recently seen as making a mental health stigma of someone in my life.
You think you know yourself, but you probably don’t. I certainly thought I knew Steve until Steve’s mom called. She was concerned he might commit suicide. As a third year med student, my biggest lesson of all came outside the hospital. If you are (or ever were) in medical school, please read: Med Student Suicide.
If we are to truly live out the “Do no harm” imperative, we must first make sure that we are not being harmed ourselves. After all, we cannot expect to replenish the empty cup of wellness our patients bring if our cup is empty, too.
The flame that is so strongly lit when applying to medical school commonly dwindles into a slow fade of burnout for many attending physicians. The impact is real and so are the consequences. Today we will discuss some of the causes.