Like many of us, I have been directly impacted by physician suicide. In just the last three weeks, two physicians have died by suicide in my relatively small community. I want to pass this along because on the rare occasions that we talk about suicide, it is easy for it to feel far away. On average, up to 135 people are deeply effected by each suicide event.
These recent tragedies in my community serve to illustrate that we are living in very difficult times. It’s easy to neglect our own self-care, which can make each of us more vulnerable to burnout, depression, and (if it gets severe enough) suicide. Remember, male physicians are 2.5 times more likely to die by suicide compared to the general population. For female physicians the risk is even higher, at 4 times the rate of the general population.
My reaction to this information has been a mixture of sadness and anger. I want to do my part to help prevent any of us from neglecting ourselves any further. Below are some useful links and resources that you can utilize to start helping yourself.
Maslach Burnout Inventory
The first step is to determine if you are currently burned out and (if you are) how severe your level of burnout is. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) has been the main research tool used in North America and I have added a link below you to access it. This is a free version of the tool.
Higher subcomponents of burnout on the MBI have been correlated with a higher risk of suicidal ideation. While the MBI is the most researched burnout tool, it does have weak points. The most significant are that it is more difficult to track severity of burnout over time and it does not evaluate other aspects of well-being.
Physician Well-Being Index
Another free option has been built by the Mayo Clinic. This is called the Physician Well Being Index. It can be taken over time so you can track your changes over a long period. You will need to create a log in with an email. There is also a phone app for this one if that version is easier for you.
Pamela Wible, MD
For those who like video and presentation formats for learning, Dr. Wible is a national expert on physician suicide and this is a very powerful 1-hour presentation.
SurgeonMasters Physician Peer Support Hotline
Another great source for physicians is the SurgeonMasters Physician Peer Support Hotline – a confidential, non-judgmental peer support phone call for physicians experiencing a particularly stressful event.
While peer support coaches can’t solve challenges for you, they will listen and support your mental and emotional well-being without judgement. SurgeonMasters trained coaches can guide you to use healthy emotional regulation and your more rational thinking to move forward. A physician peer support coach will talk with you for one hour, if your time allows.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
In this time of increased isolation, the most important thing is to have a sense of connection with others. Reach out to your peers to ask how they are doing.
If you are struggling, reach out to someone, anyone, you trust. It is OK to ask for help. You don’t need to do any of this alone.
Do you have something to share? Contribute! Email Team@SurgeonMasters.com
Ryan Will, MD
Ryan is a board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon specializing in trauma care. After finishing his orthopaedic residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hamot in Erie, Pennsylvania, he completed an orthopaedic trauma fellowship at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. When he is not seeing patients or coaching, Dr. Will enjoys hiking, mountain climbing, cooking, and spending time with his family.