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Healthgrades for ProfessionalsSpotting Suicide Risks in Your Practice

Experts Warn of Escalating Mental Health Crisis Among Medical Professionals, Call for Immediate Action

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical community is grappling with an alarming rise in physician suicides. Dr. Scott Jolley’s tragic story serves as a poignant reminder that doctors are not immune to the mental health toll of their demanding profession. With suicide rates among physicians already double that of the general population, the added stress and burnout from the pandemic are exacerbating an already critical issue.

HCN Medical Memo
For physicians, the rising suicide rates among peers should serve as a wake-up call. The stress and burnout are not just “part of the job”; they are life-threatening conditions that require immediate attention and systemic change. Physicians must advocate for better mental health resources and policy changes, while also looking out for warning signs among colleagues. The time for action is now.

Key Points
  • Dr. Scott Jolley, an ER doctor, took his own life after experiencing severe PTSD during the pandemic.
  • An estimated 300 to 400 physicians die by suicide each year in the US, a rate double that of the general population.
  • Medical students are three times more likely to die by suicide, and female physicians have a 250-400% higher suicide rate compared to females in other professions.
  • About 47% of physicians report burnout, with emergency medicine doctors leading at 60%.
  • Physicians may also be at risk due to factors like financial problems, lack of support, and access to lethal means.

Specialties with higher-than-average rates of suicidal thinking include Otolaryngology (13%), Psychiatry (12%), Family Medicine (12%), Anesthesiology (12%), OBGYN (12%), and Emergency Medicine (11%).

Additional Points
  • Warning signs of suicidal ideation include mood swings, substance abuse, and withdrawal from activities and relationships.
  • Policy initiatives like the Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act aim to provide more mental health support for healthcare workers.
  • 9% of physicians reported experiencing suicidal thoughts in a 2022 Medscape survey, down from higher rates during the pandemic peak.

More on Physician Burnout

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