By Anticipate Joy
There are few things in our world that are more heartbreaking than suicide. It is a final symptom of horrible mental illness, so severe it would drive someone to take their own life. With suicide being the tenth overall leading cause of death in the United States — the second for individuals between 10 and 34 — nearly everyone has been impacted by suicide in some way, shape, or form.
However, the epidemic of suicide is even worse among medical professionals. The suicide rate for male-identifying physicians is 1.41 times higher than the general male population, and even higher for female-identifying physicians, at 2.27 times the average female rate. Due to the exhaustive nature of your position, burnout, depressive symptoms, and suicide risk are much higher for physicians than the general public.
September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness month. With all the trials 2020 and 2021 have brought, it is more important than ever to be vigilant at recognizing suicide risk, especially among physicians. Here are some things to do to support your coworkers and look out for signs of suicide risk, as well as what to do if you are experiencing suicidal ideation.
Supporting your colleagues:
- Initiate open discussion about warning signs. By engaging in constructive conversation about suicide risk, you and other physicians can be educated and alert to help look out for others. There is a sense of stigma around discussing mental health but by beginning the conversation, it can be normalized and therefore less “taboo” to discuss with each other.
- Check in with fellow physicians. Don’t only have conversations about work. Get to know the people around you and see what’s going on in their personal lives. Make sure to be aware of things that might suggest an increased risk for suicidal behavior.
- Encourage self-care practices. You are constantly working with patients to make sure their needs are met, but it is just as important that you are taking care of yourself and emboldening your coworkers to do the same. Learn to say no, recognize warning signs of mental health issues in yourself, sleep and eat well, and reach out to your colleagues for support. You can set an example for others to do the same.
- Advocate for a supportive work environment. Encourage physicians to seek out assistance with mental health, no matter how minor or severe it might be. Consider creating a physician advocate position within the office — someone who directly looks out for the welfare of other physicians. Through serving as an advocate, you can make a difference in your workplace.
- Take action. If you suspect a colleague might be suicidal or they tell you about being suicidal, it is essential to take action and ensure that person gets help. You do not have to be an expert to offer assistance. Simply recommending resources or encouraging that person to see a mental health professional could make a huge difference.
If you are experiencing suicidal ideation:
- Talk to someone. The worst thing you can do is keep your feelings bottled up. Share with someone, whether it be a loved one, a coworker, or a suicide hotline. Tell someone how you are feeling.
- Remove potential means of harm. Get rid of guns, razors, medications, et cetera in your home that could be used to hurt yourself.
- Avoid alcohol and drug use. Using alcohol and drugs to numb your feelings can have catastrophic effects and actually increase suicidal feelings. Keep away from these substances while you are feeling this way.
- Get professional assistance. Take advantage of an EAP or go see an outside counselor, but make sure you get aid from a licensed mental health specialist.
- Try and take hope. As difficult as this may be, recognize your feelings are temporary and that life can be better again. Try making a list of the reasons you have to live: children, pets, things you enjoy, even just a favorite food. You can get through this.
We at Anticipate Joy want to express that we are here for you throughout your struggles and want to support you. Although because our therapy sessions occur online, we recommend those experiencing suicidal thoughts seek out in-person treatment, we still encourage you to get help and support your colleagues in doing the same. If you are struggling with other forms of mental illness or are simply not feeling like your best self, our services are available to you at a discounted rate through our partnership with TAFP. You can register, request one of our incredible licensed mental health professionals, and get started on your journey to joy today.
This September, make sure to take care of yourself and check in on those around you. You are loved and here on this Earth for a purpose. We hope you see that in yourself, too.
IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, CALL THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: (800)273-8255 FOR 24/7 ASSISTANCE.
Brooks, E. (2013, August 31). Physician suicide and support. AMA Steps Forward.
Pruthi, S. (2018, January 31). Are you thinking about suicide? How to find treatment. Mayo Clinic.
(2021, January). Suicide statistics. National Institute of Mental Health.
(2021, February 9). Facts about mental health and suicide among physicians. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
TAFP has purchased a set of sessions making online therapy available to you at a significantly reduced rate of $35 per session when you use the TAFP access. These sessions are available for active and resident members.
NOTE: We have removed the limit of four sessions so members can now book more sessions at the reduced rate.
Access the Anticipate Joy service
5 easy steps to get started
- 1. Get Access. Use the customized scan code or this link to access your organization’s mental health benefits.
- 2. Complete a brief intake. Answer a few questions about you.
- 3. Purchase session(s). Take advantage of the low TAFP member rate.
- 4. Select a therapist. Review available therapists using filters and request a therapist that best fits your needs.
- 5. Pick a time. After the therapist approves your request, select an appointment time that works for you and your therapist.