Physician Suicide and the Elephant in the Room
Michael Langan, M.D.
Although no reliable statistics exist, anecdotal reports suggest an alarming upsurge in physician suicide. This necessitates a reappraisal of known predisposing risk factors such as substance abuse and depression but also requires a critical examination of what external forces or vulnerabilities might be unique to doctors and how they might be involved in the descent from suicidal ideation to suicidal planning to completed suicide.
Depression and Substance Abuse Comparable to General Population
Depression and substance abuse are the two biggest risk factors for suicide. The prevalence of depression in physicians is close to that of the general population 1,2 and, if one looks critically at the evidence based literature, substance abuse in medical professionals approximates that of the general population. Controlled studies using DSM diagnostic criteria suggest that physicians have the same rates (8-14%) of substance abuse…
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