September 17, 2021
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Wellness
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were regaled with stories of physician heroism and sacrifice amid horrific conditions. Those stories of overcrowded emergency rooms, long hours and harrowing decisions also helped bring to the surface some of the mental health issues that physicians face every day. Long hours and high levels of stress have consequences, and often undermine the mental health of those working on the front lines.
Physicians are at a higher risk of suicide and suicidal ideation than the general population. Suicidal ideation has been associated with high workload volume and medical errors. Although previous research linked physician burnout to depression and suicide, a recent investigation suggests that burnout and depression are separate experiences, with distinct consequences for physicians and their patients. Physicians who experience suicidal ideation have been shown to be less likely to seek the help they need.
September 17, 2021, is National Physician Suicide Awareness Day. It is a day for physicians and those around them to discuss the mental health issues that impact so many physicians, and to help everyone prevent physician suicide.
Together, we can shift the paradigm from a system where physicians think that burnout, depression or suicidal thoughts are something they must overcome by themselves, to one where they see the support system around them willing to help them seek mental health care.
It’s a time to talk – and to act – so physicians’ struggles don’t become mental health emergencies. Reach out and engage physicians, their loved ones, their colleagues, health organizations or others in your network to join us in recognizing #NPSADay.
Your organization can join the fight by signing the petition and committing to raise awareness about mental health issues for physicians.
The American Medical Association also has helpful resources on this important issues.