Here is a nice editorial about physician suicide in the NY Times. I blog about this issue often because it saddens me. This is one really is from the young doctor’s perspective. Here are some highlights from the piece that were important to me:
The statistics on physician suicide are frightening: Physicians are more than twice as likely to kill themselves as nonphysicians (and female physicians three times more likely than their male counterparts). Some 400 doctors commit suicide every year. Young physicians at the beginning of their training are particularly vulnerable: In a recent study, 9.4 percent of fourth-year medical students and interns — as first-year residents are called — reported having suicidal thoughts in the previous two weeks.
Some stoics may invoke Osler’s creed to argue that physicians must push aside our personal burdens to care for the sick. But a tired and depressed doctor who is an island of self-doubt simply isn’t as likely to improve the outcomes of his or her patients — or ever truly care for them.
You can read the whole article if you are a young resident and it intrigues you. The truth is that as a young doctor you have more help around you and that is a good thing. Use it because that help unfortunately goes away. Just wait. The burdens are different when you are older, and in many ways life as a doctor is better but it is doesn’t last long. Soon you will find that the bureaucracy of medicine will beat you down and then you find out NO ONE is there to talk to. You also fear being reported to the state board for being an impaired doctor. You are alone on an island that is shrinking in size as others try to bump you off. Yes, I am saddened for my fallen comrades and I only pray that we can one day get off the treadmill. That is our only chance of rescue.