MSDC Recognizes National Physician Suicide Awareness Day September 17, 2021
Written by MSDC Staff
Today is National Physician Suicide Awareness Day and the Medical Society of the District of Columbia (MSDC), the largest medical organization in the District representing metropolitan Washington physicians, is raising awareness of the physician suicide epidemic. National Physician Suicide Awareness Day (September 17, 2021) is a reminder and call to action to help everyone prevent physician suicide, including health organizations, health systems, hospitals, medical societies, and practices. It’s a time to talk — and to act — so physicians’ struggles don’t become mental health emergencies.
Physicians have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. The suicide rate among male physicians is approximately 1.41 times higher than the general male population, according to a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Among female physicians, the relative risk is even more pronounced —approximately 2.27 times greater than the general female population.
However, MSDC President E.W. Emanuel, MD, makes clear that, “The physicians who have taken their lives by suicide are not just statistics, they are people. They are people whose patients, families, and communities have been negatively impacted by the loss of a physician healer.”
The Medical Society of the District of Columbia is committed to raising awareness of the physician suicide epidemic. “Over half of all physicians know of a physician who has considered, attempted or died by suicide,” said MSDC President Dr. Emanuel. “The pandemic has put physicians at even greater risk, with more than half of all physicians experiencing inappropriate feelings of anger, tearfulness or anxiety because of COVID-19. It is vital that we make a conscious and forward effort to break down stigma and encourage physicians to talk about their mental health and seek support when they need it, especially in the wake of the most significant health event in recent history.”
MSDC is working to galvanize physicians, their colleagues, and their loved ones to create a culture of wellbeing that prioritizes reducing burnout, safeguarding job satisfaction, and viewing seeking mental health services as a sign of strength.
MSDC provides resources and support to District physicians in their struggle against burnout and even suicide. For decades, MSDC has provided support and advocacy for physicians battling addiction. The Healthy Physician Program is a comprehensive physician wellness program that provides resources, networking, counseling, and templates to address moral injury and burnout. The program is open to all physicians and is supported by physician organizations, foundations, and health systems. Learn more at www.msdc.org/physicians/physician-wellness.
In addition, Vital Signs: The Campaign to Prevent Physician Suicide, provides resources and lists six actions any individual or health organization can take to help physicians in distress seek mental health care, ultimately helping prevent suicide. They are:
- Learn the Vital Signs
- Share suicide prevention resources
- Prepare before a moment of crisis
- Check in with a physician
- Understand structural barriers
- Create a culture of wellbeing
Visit NPSAday.org to learn more about ways to take action on #NPSADay, and use #NPSADay to spread the word today.