Physician Death by Suicide

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Physician Death by Suicide

With the recent death of Missouri Auditor, Tom Schweick, the subject of suicide has been ever present. It is not a comfortable topic and very sad for family and friends. We always wonder what could have been done to prevent this sad loss.

A primary reason for the beginning of the Physician Health Program movement in the early 1970’s was concern about physician suicide. The AMA and Federation of State Medical Boards were concerned about the significant loss of physician lives which was roughly equivalent annually to a graduating class of medical students. They were also concerned about substance abuse and much progress has been made in this area. However, physician suicide is still not easily addressed and a subject often avoided.

Your PHP must be able to address all precursors to suicide. These include substance abuse, mental illness and professional issues. A program should not pick or choose these areas but be able to address all categories of physician distress.

The MPHP does address all these issues and is able to respond anywhere in Missouri when called. We are not able to document how many suicides we prevent by being there for distressed physicians. We can only identify the ones we were not there for because of their deaths or failed attempts.

Physicians are a valuable resource. Many years and extensive training resources are utilized to develop a physician. Saving a physician’s life becomes a necessary and vital effort. Your Physician Health Program is a cost effective and valuable approach to addressing this very difficult task. The MPHP is your program to take care of you and your colleagues. It is something you don’t think about until you or a colleague needs it and then you are reminded why the MPHP exists. Your financial support and emotional support is always needed. Additionally, education is a big part of this effort. Seek ways to have one of our staff speak to you and your colleagues. Remember, information is a valuable weapon in this war on suicide that produces significant casualties.

Help us help you and your colleagues - all valuable Missouri physicians. Review our website for information. Subscribe to our newsletter. Help a colleague or yourself by seeking guidance from the MPHP. We wish to partner with you to keep our physicians alive and practicing.