I harmed myself with self-judgment, shame and secrecy. I became isolated by the story I told myself. The tragedy—it never had to be that way. Silence was the prison and I believed it kept me free.
—Loice Swisher, MD, Co-creator of the National Physician Suicide Awareness Day for the AMWA Shine a Spotlight Campaign
Looking at Medscape’s 2019 National Physician Burnout, Depression and Suicide Report, I am not particularly unusual. I am just one of the 20% of physicians who thought about suicide. I now know that I am not alone, but then I felt completely alone. We doctors don’t talk about suicidal ideation. Such isolation increases the risk already made higher for physicians who have expert knowledge of and access to lethal means. In my case, the additional feeling of failure as a mother and a doctor completed Joiner’s three-ring Venn diagram of overlapping factors creating the perfect situation for suicidal desire.
I tell my story so that others who are suffering can see that there are ones who made it to the other side—practice of medicine and life intact. It is exceedingly important to realize stories of hope and recovery are true. In addition, it is those at arm’s length away who have the greatest chance of changing the course. We need to be able to talk with one another sharing the tough journeys.
My hope: this is the start of a life-changing conversation.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 across the United States. Call 800.273.TALK (8255) or CLICK HERE TO CHAT with a counselor.
For more information, visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
We Can Help
VITAL WorkLife offers healthcare organizations—no matter what size or where they are in the journey of supporting physician well being—a comprehensive suite of solutions designed specifically to reduce the effects of stress and burnout and improve work/life balance while increasing awareness and implementing measures toward suicide-prevention.
Click below to download our article, "Healing the Healer: Providing a Path to Physician Suicide Prevention."