Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why higher suicide rates in Medicine?

There was a recent article published in the NY Times about the increased risk of suicide in medical students and doctors.

This article displays the EXACT reason why I started this blog about healthcare lifestyle. The truth is we need it. We need balance.  There is an interesting dichotomy that while we are devoted to others, we often forget to take care of ourselves.  The stressors we face on a daily basis constitute a psych consult for ourselves.  However, there are many colleagues who are experiencing the same situations day in and day out to whom we can turn if needed.

Ever since reading this article, I am not quite sure (having been/going through) the process of the cause of this increased risk of suicide in doctors.  I have seen burn out, but I have also seen some of the most committed, driven, and intelligent people I have ever met who meet obstacle after case after problem with a calm demeanor.  Perhaps it is not the type of people, but the process which entails hours of isolated study, numerous examinations and continuous evaluation until your 30's, lots of medical student debt that continues to accrue despite earning probably less than minimum wage throughout residency, meanwhile managing your patient's emotions, sickness, and death along the way. 

Medicine is a field in which we need to prove ourselves over and over day in and day out.  There is always a looming lawsuit around every corner.  Our hours are irregular and often offset from the rest of the workforce.  Despite all these things, the type A personality, who is achievement driven can escape victorious in having conquered all of the aforementioned demons along the way of becoming a doctor.  And I truly believe that it is worth it. Maybe that means I am crazy, or maybe it means that I believe in the true value and calling of what our profession stands for and strives for.  Maybe the arduous road is to weed out those who do not belong among us, but at what cost? I think that we must do more for eachother.  We as doctors need to figure out why our suicide rates are higher and we must do something about it. Now! We cannot spare another colleague's death.

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