The effect of suicide on those left behind is profound and forever changing. When we see the families and friends after their loss, we see emotions that overwhelm them. We see the "what ifs" and why didn't I's" questions that will never be answered. As a survivor of my own sister’s suicide, I still struggle with why couldn't I have done more, especially being in my chosen field. What I have learned through tremendous pain, suffering and searching is that we are just not that powerful. I also came to trust that I really did do everything I could possibly do, my sister just did not want the help. I have peace today knowing that she finally has the peace she needed. My sister was a healthcare professional.
As life would have it with this job, we are sometimes called to draw from our own experience. Over a year ago, I received a call from a woman whose sister, who we will call Cathy, was a physician in the Missouri-Kansas area. She could not confirm that she practiced in our state but we talked for a long time about her sister who struggled with addiction. Cathy had made efforts at recovery but was not able to maintain long term recovery. I offered the support that we provide through the Missouri Physicians’ Health Program and really just listened to her pain. We agreed we would continue to talk with the hope that something might shift for Cathy if she could come to see that there is a solution. In the meantime, her sister would make sure Cathy knew that she loved her and was there for her.
About a month ago, I received a call from Cathy's sister letting me know that she had taken her life. She wanted to thank me for all the phone calls and recommendations which she had tried but to no avail. She wanted to make sure that I knew that what we do does make a difference even if the outcome is not what we hope for. Her appreciation blew me away based on the level of pain she was experiencing at the time. It truly made me grateful for the work that I get to do each day to support and advocate for our physicians.
I present what happened with the hope that people never give up on their loved ones and in our case, our physicians. In most cases, with early intervention, treatment and monitoring, our physicians are restored to healthy lives and careers. For those that we lose, we know that their pain was too great and we take comfort in their peace.