Dear Dr. Wible,
I lost my beautiful son Evan to suicide four weeks ago. He was a second year internal medicine resident — a very smart, loving and funny man! He left a lengthy letter and in it he stated, “I do not want any attention drawn to this.” I have been crying all day reading your book and blog and I’ve seen the trailer of the film you all are making. I admire your work and if I can help one student, resident or doctor to seek help it will be worth ignoring his wishes.
You see Evan was always a really bright child. He was very caring and compassionate. I never saw any signs of depression. He did well in college, excelled on his MCAT and excitedly headed off to medical school. I am a nurse, and I tried to get him to choose another career! I told him how overworked and exhausted the doctors were. That they had to deal with patients, insurance, call, weekends, etc. He chose that path anyway and, of course, I was very proud.
In his letter, he wrote, “I guess we all know that I chose the wrong field. I actually think it would’ve been a good fit for me a few decades ago, but I don’t like what it is currently. Like every damn field in the world right now it appears that profit is the driving motive and things will continue to get worse as more profit is extracted. It is also not the career my mind was built for. I’m better at deep knowledge of a narrow spectrum, not of the broad and somewhat shallow. This discontent was something I was never able to reconcile fully. I would work long hours, and in my spare time, I would fret about my situation. I felt I was too far behind to get where I needed to be. Now I’m left with a job I can barely stand and a mountain of debt (which FYI should be absolved upon my death).”
Our family, of course, is heartbroken, lonely, miserable and questioning what we could have done differently. He went on to mention that he first thought of suicide in med school and has thought about it almost weekly since that time. What hurts me the most is that I had NO idea that he was that miserable!!! Everyone says med school and residency is tough and we thought this was normal. Like I said at the first, he was very funny and made fun of himself. He did tell me a while back that he didn’t like it. He said, “I just wanted to be a scientist that helped people, and that is not at all what I do.”
So my beautiful, loving son got in his truck, drove home to Texas and took his own life! In this tiny town, there were over 500 people at his memorial service! If he would have just reached out to anyone! Is there anything I can do to help? I have no idea how to fix our medical system, but this epidemic must be studied and stopped!
Evan’s loving mother,
Oh, I am so sorry to hear about the suicide of your beautiful son, Evan. Such a terrible loss for us all! Please know that I am here for you 24/7 if you ever need me. Talking about your feelings and connecting with others is therapeutic for many who have been through suicide. I will connect you with a support group that I created for parents who have lost their children to suicide during medical training. Writing is healing too. I’d be honored to celebrate your son’s life on my blog so that we can help other medical students and doctors know that there’s no shame in asking for help. You can even honor Evan on a tribute page in the forthcoming documentary film, Do No Harm (now ranked #1 of all 500 films on Kickstarter!). I’ll call you in a moment. Thanks so much for your courage in reaching out and being willing (amid your grief) to help others.
Pamela Wible pioneered the community-designed ideal medical clinic and blogs at Ideal Medical Care. She is the author of Physician Suicide Letters — Answered and Pet Goats and Pap Smears. Watch her TEDx talk, How to Get Naked with Your Doctor. She hosts the physician retreat, Live Your Dream, to help her colleagues heal from grief and reclaim their lives and careers.
Image credit: Pamela Wible