Suicide among doctors

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imagesCAH97L6LAn article in the New York Times the other day asked the question – Why Do Doctors Commit Suicide?  As someone who has lost two siblings and a mother to suicide, as well as having a few issues of my own, I feel as qualified as anyone to respond to this question.  In my experience, suicide is a very individual decision.  Just as there are with most issues, I suspect that there are many reasons for the individual.  It seems to represent a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  It is truly sad that for some people suicide represents a valid choice.  Young doctors, in general, represent a fertile ground for suicidal ideation.  Again, in general, young doctors encompass a group of individuals who are ambitious, intelligent, driven and thoughtful.  Unfortunately, their expectations often exceed their abilities.  After a long struggle to gain knowledge and expertise, they often embark on a quest to change the world, heal the sick, and alleve the suffering of mankind.  Quickly, their dreams run into the “immovable object” known as reality and they succumb to feelings of despair and hopelessness.  They then become lost and choose suicide as the only remaining option.  It is truly unfortunate.

In retrospect, it is obvious what the problem is.  One day they are medical students with no real responsibility.  The next day, they are interns with enormous, perhaps unrealistic, expectations and responsibilities.  In a few short months, their minds are “fogged” from the lack of sleep and the ever-increasing demands to perform, learn more, heal more,and stop death.  They become overwhelmed and succumb to the feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.  Obviously, this is only one potential answer, but perhaps it would be helpful to spread the work-load out and ease the transition from medical student to intern.  After all, most doctors make the transition just fine– or do they?

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