The profession with the highest suicide rate?

You guessed it, medicine:

The unsettling truth is that doctors have the highest rate of suicide of any profession. Every year, between 300 and 400 physicians take their own lives””roughly one a day. And, in sharp contrast to the general population, where male suicides outnumber female suicides four to one, the suicide rate among male and female doctors is the same.

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  • MLO

    I believe that law enforcement is the other profession that competes with medical professionals for the top spot. Personally, I think it has to do with the fact that both professional groups see the absolute worst of humanity. Ever sit down to dinner between a law enforcement pro and a medical pro competing for who had the worst day?

    Unfortunately, society does not really understand how debilitating seeing the seamy underside of society constantly can become. If there is no outlet for managing the understandable feelings of frustration, it is little wonder these two professions have such high rates of suicide. Perhaps we should look at creating better support networks for both groups.

  • Anonymous

    I saw an old study showing the highest suicide rates among family practitioners.

    The lowest rates were ENT doctors.

  • Anonymous

    One of the questions to be answered every year in renewing my M.D. license is, “Were you treated for a mental illness since your last renewal?__Yes__No.” And we are asked to explain if we answer yes. Makes one have second thoughts about obtaining treatment for depression.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t admit to having depression unless you have rock solid insurance. I was unable to obtain medical insurance for years because I made that mistake.

    There is so much pressure on doctors. I don’t know how they stand it.

  • amedici

    The article you linked to stated that doctors are afraid to admit depression problems because they worry “that if they admit to a mental-health problem they could lose respect, referrals, income and even their licenses”

    I don’t understand. At present doctors who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction and are in rehab, are allowed to keep this secret and can continue treating their unaware patients with no fear of disclosure. So why aren’t they allowed to keep their depression issues under wraps while being treated.

  • Anonymous

    The MD is very poor protection against mental illness – we have just as much of it as the rest of the working population.

    We just don’t treat it and this attitude is tolerated well in our circles.

    Besides, who has time to take care of ourselves?

  • Med Student

    I would have thought it would be highest among med students.

  • Anonymous

    My class in med school consisted of 8o students, two of whom committed suicide before graduation. That may seem like a high percentage, but both were deeply disturbed individuals, I am convinced (rhetrospectively) that both were manic-melancholic psychotics; or bipolar as it is now called. What puzzles me now, thirty years thereafter, is not that they killed themselves, but that they were admitted to medical school in the first place. Ought there not to be some crude psychological test to weed out not only the psychopaths who will endanger others, but also the psychotics who will endager themselves?

  • Anonymous

    Interviewing for the medical school I ultimately attended, we were all subjected to the MMPI. I knew of the test from basic college psych, but I had never before actually seen and taken the test.

    They had the questions about hearing voices, torturing animals, questions that would indicate significantly disturbed individuals if answered affirmatively.

    As far as I know, it was not an admissions tool, but a faculty psychologist was studying MMPI profiles of medical students, those that apply, those accepted, how the different personality types did through school, etc……though not certain on this.

    After admission, some time later, I asked the psychologist about the test. I figured the test would not be sensitive when applied to a population of medical students.

    After all, anyone hearing voices, torturing animals, etc., would not make it as far as medical school. The person would have been weeded out long before admission, right?

    She just smiled and said, “you’d be surprised”.

    I am no longer surprised.

  • Anonymous

    I did a review of this following a suicide in our facility. The article is quite shallow. That there is a higher rate than the general population is clear. The numbers conflict on whether it is higher than comparable demographic groups–while male professional with advanced degrees. Men have higher rates than women, white men higher than non-white, and more highly educated people than the less educated.

    I think that it is still higher for physicians. Some of the numbers for women doc are far more striking than those in the article.

    Other liabilities are:

    fewer failed attempts

    no illusions about aging and disability and suffering

    very high stress levels

    1/3 get clinically depressed in internship–and depression doesn’t “toughen us up”–it kindles later episodes of depression

    chronic sleep deprivation

    Probably the biggest are the cultural and legal barriers interfering with getting treatment.

  • Duy Tran

    “Every year, between 300 and 400 physicians take their own lives…”

    Is this in the USA or the world?

  • Anonymous

    The major variable in killing yourself is not how sad you are. It is simply your ability to do so. Doctor’s have a high suicide rate because of their access to and knowledge of drugs that they can use to kill themselves. Law enforcement has a high suicide rate because they all have guns.

    The reason men succeed in killing themseves more often is because they use guns which are effective. Women will use pills and fail. Female doctors, however, know exactly what they are doing so they can be as effective with a pill as a man is with a gun.

  • Anon

    Those numbers are equivalent to police suicide rates as well. I don’t think the main cause of suicide is ability, otherwise nuclear scientists and gunsmiths would be topping the lists. I think it has everything to do with people who take a role of responsibility where life/death and tragic life changing repercussions are at stake. All emergency personnel (fire, ems, police, er docs, etc.) are affected by the abnormal experiences that their job entails.

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