Today a physician told me she lost three colleagues to suicide in the last two months.
Loma Linda Hospital just lost three young doctors to suicide in 6 months.
Mount Sinai had 3 docs jump in less than 2 years — from the same building.
An anesthesiologist recently told me he lost 8 of his colleagues to suicide.
Each suicide should be fully investigated, yet few receive root cause analysis of the specific circumstances leading to their deaths.
In January, I reported on my investigation into 757 doctor suicides in The Washington Post. (Now I’ve got nearly 900 suicides on my registry.)
Recently, Dr. Oz exposed the hidden epidemic and shared his loss of 3 close physician friends to suicide.
Since starting a suicide hotline for doctors in 2012, I’ve spoken to thousands of depressed and suicidal physicians.
Last evening I spent an hour speaking to an Indian resident who is being bullied relentlessly by her program director at a US hospital. She disclosed, “the working environment is so very toxic that I dread going to hospital every morning. The program killed my joy for medicine. I feel dead inside — empty. I feel like killing my self every single day. Almost every resident I know is on some type of anti-depressant or an ADHD medication.”
Fueled in part by bullying, chronic human rights violations, and lack of mental health care, doctor suicide is now a global epidemic. Just last weekend, we lost two young physicians to suicide in India.
Ruhi Hathidra, a 26-year-old third-year pediatric resident killed herself by injecting an anaesthetic in her hospital dormitory on Saturday 3/24/18. Police revealed she was pregnant.
P. Siva Teja Reddy, a 31-year-old first-year neurology resident killed himself the following day. He was a compassionate and brilliant doctor who spent his own money to repair wheelchairs and buy medical supplies for his poor patients. He was found hanging in his hospital dorm. Though print media reported “loneliness” as the reason for his suicide, the real cause of death according to his colleagues is inhumane working conditions” per an email I received from a physician in India late last evening.
His colleagues are now demanding an inquiry into the circumstances of his death and have presented to authorities the following documents in which they declare:
1. P. Siva Teja Reddy was tortured to such an extent that he was having fear of presenting cases due to public humiliation in front of colleagues and patients (called “pimping” in U.S.).
2. Like P. Siva Teja Reddy, many residents are being publicly humiliated with abusive language in front of colleagues, staff, and patients for even small issues.
3. Residents have no specific work hours and have no days off after 36 hours of strenuous duty leading to physical and mental distress.
4. Residents do not have time for recreation or to even see their families or spouse leading to fractured relationships and extreme emotional distress.
5. Residents are afraid to take any leave, and this has led to miscarriages in female residents who are warned not to conceive during training.
What you can do:
1. If you are a doctor or medical student, demand that your human rights are respected. Stand in solidarity with your colleagues as these residents are doing in India.
2. If you are a patient, ask your doctors, “How long have you been on your shift?” If greater than 16 hours you should request another doctor. Boycott hospital systems and clinics that violate the human rights of patients — and doctors.
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