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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What Makes a Physician take their own life ?

During Suicide Awareness Week, I hosted a free two-day retreat in NYC (in collaboration with Emmy-winner Robyn Symon’s preview of her award-winning film, Do No Harmsold out both nights at Angelika Film Center’s largest theater). Nearly 500 physicians (from as far as Hawaii and Alaska) joined in activities on September 12 & 13—from afternoon empowerment sessions to evening receptions and open mic until 2:00 am where doctors shared their suicide attempts openly. For many the most poignant moment was the Manhattan Memorial March to the site where one of medicine’s pioneers died by suicide earlier this year. At the location of her death, I delivered this eulogy to the countless doctors we’ve lost to suicide (fully transcribed & mildly edited for clarity).

Eulogy to 10,000 Doctors

Many more residents and physicians shared their suicide attempts. I chose not to publish their accounts without permission. Please know that suicide is an epidemic among medical professionals. Start the conversation about doctor suicide at your medical institution. Please contact Robyn Symon to screen Do No Harm—the film that exposes causes and reveals solutions to the doctor suicide crisis.

As we walked away from the memorial we experienced an unexpected surprise..

                    Cheering and applause from resident physicians at Starbucks!

                       Why “happy” doctors die by suicide

He was the go-to sports guy in Washington, DC. A masterful surgeon with countless academic publications, he trained orthopaedic surgeons across the world and was the top physician for professional sports teams and Olympians.
Dr. Benjamin Shaffer had it all.
Yet Ben was more than a stellar surgeon. He was a kind, sweet, brilliant, and sensitive soul who could relate to anyone—from inner city children to Supreme Court justices. He was gorgeous and magnetic with a sense of humor and a zest for life that was contagious. Most of all, he loved helping people. Patients came to him in pain and left his office laughing. They called him “Dr. Smiles.”
Ben was at the top of his game when he ended his life. So why did he die?
High doctor suicide rates have been reported since 1858 (1). Yet 160 years later the root causes of these suicides remain unaddressed. Physician suicide is a global public health crisis. More than one million Americans lose their doctors each year to suicide—just in the US (2). Many doctors have lost several colleagues to suicide. One doctor told me he lost eight physicians during his career with no chance to grieve.
Of these 1,013 suicides, 888 are physicians and 125 are medical students. The majority (867) are in the USA and 146 are international. Surgeons have the greatest number of suicides on my registry, then anesthesiologists. (3)

Ref:  Pamela Wible, M.D.  Thanks to her commitment and dedication there is hope.

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