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Depression/ Suicide

Residents and faculty are human and sometimes need help.  Depression is as common in the medical profession as in the general population, affecting an estimated 12% of males and up to 19.5% of females. According to data and conclusions drawn from 31 cross-sectional studies comprising 9447 medical residents and 23 longitudinal studies (8113 residents), the overall depression prevalence was found to be 28.8% (4969/17,560 residents) in residents.

Each year in the U.S., roughly 300 – 400 physicians die by suicide. Physicians are not at greater risk for suicide than the general population because they are “weaker” or less resilient; rather, the opposite is true. Despite their high levels of personal resilience, physicians are often placed in situations of recurrent stress. Recurrent stress can lead to physiological and physical exhaustion, otherwise known as burnout (Romani).

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Factors associated with suicide among physicians include (AMA):

  • Depression
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Substance-use disorder
  • Impaired relationships
  • Self-destructive tendency

Factors Associated with Increased Depressive Symptoms

  • Burnout
  • Social isolation
  • Long work hours
  • Poor sleep schedule and fatigue
  • Lack of control (e.g. schedule, hours, workload)
  • History of depression, anxiety, SI, or trauma
  • Substance use
  • Inadequate feedback
  • Experiencing patient deaths
  • Poor inpatient learning experiences
  • Feeling mistreated at work
  • In the process of or history of being sued
  • Restrictions on license
  • High institutional research rankings
  • Stressors outside work (e.g. finances, relationships, health)

      When to be Concerned

      Changes in Work Performance

      • Change in punctuality
      • Delayed response to pages/phone calls
      • Failure to complete required tasks
      • Poor participation in work activities
      • Change in “professionalism”
      • Poor eye contact
      • Poor patient care
      • Work-family conflict
      • Increased frequency of medical errors
      • Sudden change in patient satisfaction scores

            Changes in Mood

            • Sad or depressed mood
            • Hopelessness
            • Irritability
            • Humiliation
            • Guilt
            • Anxiety
            • Rage

                Changes in Behaviors

                • Recklessness
                • Withdrawing from others and activities
                • Decreased engagement
                • Isolating self from family and friends
                • Change in sleep habits
                • Aggression
                • Increased drug or alcohol use

                    Beware: Performance at work for physicians is often the last thing to go. Professionals often function relatively well until the depression is severe!

                    What to do if you suspect there might be a problem

                    • If you suspect a person is in crisis, escort the individual to the Emergency Department.
                      • Do not leave them alone!
                      • Get help and notify Program Director, DIO, Program Coordinator, or supervisor
                    • If not in crisis and not sure what is going on, escort the individual to employee health.
                    • Get help and notify Program Director, DIO, Program Coordinator or supervisor


                          Depression Screening –


                          Physicians Connected – Watch Video

                          Preventing Medical Trainee Suicide – Watch Video

                          Physician Support Line –

                          Suicide Prevention –

                          Identify and Support At-Risk Physicians –

                          10 Facts about Physician Suicide – Learn More

                          Warning Signs for Resident Depression – Learn More

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