We are commonly asked, “How are you?” and we typically reply, “Fine.” But truly, how are you doing? After juggling the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic for over six months, are we really ‘fine?’ As a society we have proven to be hopeful, resilient and resourceful, but sometimes the burden is simply too much. Six months of this all-consuming pressure, in addition to the well-known burnout that comes with a physician’s job, may leave you thinking that listening to calming music and deep breathing just isn’t enough. If you are feeling this way, know that you are not alone.
AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, shared her thoughts during an online program hosted by The Atlantic magazine. Among the topics she addressed was how COVID-19 exposed longstanding inequities and deficiencies in the nation’s health care system. “Burnout has been a problem amongst physicians and other health care workers for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the national public health problem of physician burnout.” Put this together with the common claim that doctors have a high suicide rate, and this becomes a real concern.
To address the issue of physician suicide, September 17 has been identified as National Physician Suicide Awareness (NPSA) Day.
The goals are to shine a light on the issue and to raise awareness both internally and externally. Through this, they hope to lessen the stigma for physicians and to encourage clinicians to speak about their struggles either privately or openly – COVID-19 related or not – and seek help.
We are using this important message to raise awareness and connect you, your loved ones, or your coworkers with available services.
Immediate help for you, a loved one or a coworker:
If you feel you are at risk for taking your own life seek help right away. There are many ways to get help, including:
- Call 911 or go to your local emergency room
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Veterans can call and then press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
- Text the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741).
- Text the Veterans Crisis Line at 838255.
- If you are outside the United States, find a 24/7 hotline at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/
- Call your health care or mental health provider
- Reach out to a loved one or close friend
If you are worried that a loved one or coworker is at risk for suicide, don't leave them alone. You can take the following steps:
- Encourage them to seek help. Assist them in finding help if needed.
- Let them know you care. Listen without judgement and provide encouragement and support.
- Restrict access to weapons, pills and other items that could cause harm.
Just need some inspiration?
The Academy has built a wealth of resources for you and we encourage you to spend some time on this page.