YOU ARE NOT AS ALONE AS YOU MIGHT FEEL
You have been trained to think that if you cannot come up with a solution, then there is no solution.
So If you've made a medical error that harmed a patient
Or are threatened with malpractice
Or suffered financial ruin
Or did something illegal
Or are in financial ruin
Or simply are overwhelmed with the vicarious
or first-hand trauma you experience in medicine
You might think that ending your life will solve your problems.
But this is faulty programming.
You are not the only one who has faced overwhelming challenges and emerged alive. There are always other options
Your life does matter to other people:
our family, your patients, your colleagues.
You have tremendous potential for taking action. After all, you made it through medical school.
What to say to a colleague who is suicidal
Question - Persuade - Refer
QUESTION the person about suicide and don't be vague: "Have you ever had thoughts, feelings, or plans about ending your life?" There is a common misconception that by asking about it, you increase the risk and statistics show the exact opposite.
PERSUADE the person to get help. Remember to listen carefully and without judgment and then say, "Let me help" or "Come with me to find help!" Once you are on notice, you need to take responsibility and you're GOOD at this because your medical training has taught you how. Remind them that they are not the only ones that have ever felt this.
REFER for to resources which can help and make a warm hand-off. Make the call to the suicide prevention hotline together, help them make an EAP appointment, reach out to a peer-to-peer program, or the Physician Vitality Program. If they are in imminent danger, do not leave them: call 9-1-1 or take them to the hospital. Follow-up and find out what steps they are taking to get healthy.
National Physician Suicide Awareness Day
Shine a Light. Speak its name.
September 17, 2019
AMA's StepsForward provides a checklist for helping identify physicians who may be at risk of suicide, helping facilitate access to appropriate care, and answering common questions about physician distress and suicidal behavior.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a full page of resources around physician suicidality, including links to toolkits for medical schools and residency programs for suicide post-vention (which could be adapted at a hospital or health system level).