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Monday, September 17, 2018

The Hidden Secret: New Film 'Pulls Back Curtain' on Physician Suicide |

New Film 'Pulls Back Curtain' on Physician Suicide

And doctors, med students march for victims for National 

Suicide Prevention Week




 Nearly 200 clinicians, residents, and patients filled the Angelika Film Center here on Wednesday for a screening of "Do No Harm," a documentary on the national suicide crisis among physicians, who kill themselves at a rate twice the national average.
And on Thursday, hosted by the film's director, Robyn Symon, and physician suicide prevention advocate Pamela Wible, MD, a group of physicians, residents, and students gathered at the Watson Hotel here and marched to Mount Sinai Hospital in honor of doctors lost to suicide.
"Do No Harm" largely follows two families -- the Dietls and Mechams -- facing the consequences of the pressure-filled and stress-inducing demands of medical education, training, and practice, which leads an estimated 300 to 400 physicians to take their own lives each year.
"I believe this is the first film to pull back the curtain on the toxic medical culture that doctors have been trapped in for decades, but have been too disempowered to speak out on because of the fear of consequences to their career," Symon told MedPage Today. "The goal of this film is to open a dialogue because dialogue is the first step to change."
In the film, Hawkins Mecham, DO, attests to the unrealistic hours expected of residents, the highly competitive nature of medical programs, and his immense fear of making a mistake and losing it all. Eventually these factors -- along with the pressure of being hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt -- caused him to be stuck in what he described as a "tunnel vision," where in seeking a way out during his fourth year of residency, he made an attempt on his life.
During a panel discussion following the screening that featured Symon and Wible, as well as John and Michele Dietl (who lost their son Kevin to suicide 3 months before he would have graduated from medical school), Mecham described the path that led him there.
"I finally got to my first rotation of my fourth year and it hit me when I started getting interview requests and realized, just to be able to attend interviews, I had to take out private loans because I'd already maxed out my federal loans," he said. "It overwhelmed me among other things, and got to the point where I thought it wasn't worth it. The only way to erase this for [my family] was for me to die. That was part of my thought process in my spiral downwards."
Mecham got in touch with Wible, who connected him with the Dietls. The parallels between Kevin and Mecham gave John and Michele Dietl an opportunity to heal, allowing them to ask Mecham questions they were no longer able to ask their son. Namely, why?

"When we started doing this film I was very hesitant because I was afraid of Kevin's legacy -- what would he think of everyone in the world knowing what happened to him?" Michele Dietl said at the panel. "I want these students to know from a younger age: Get help. Don't wait until it's a crisis situation and you're ready to kill yourself because you think you're trapped and you have all this debt and you're never going to be able to get your license. I hope he'd be proud of us and not ashamed."

Also on the panel were Thomas Madejski, MD, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY), and Michael Myers, MD, author of "Why Physicians Die by Suicide: Lessons Learned From Their Families and Others Who Cared."
When asked what the MSSNY is doing to help alleviate some of the stressors physicians face, Madejski cited the Physician Wellness and Resilience task force, which his predecessor Charles Rothberg, MD, created, as well as a collective negotiation bill they are working to pass. Additionally, he hopes to increase the number of physician-led health systems.

"Do No Harm" will be shown throughout 2018-2019 at various locations.

If you or your organization would like to sponsor these events, please contact 

Robyn Simon, Producer. email 

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New Film 'Pulls Back Curtain' on Physician Suicide | Medpage Today: And doctors, med students march for victims for National Suicide Prevention Week

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