The Los Angeles County Medical Association honors National Physician Suicide Awareness Day (#NPSAday) to help shift the healthcare system from one where physicians think burnout, depression, or suicidal thoughts are something they must overcome by themselves to one where they see the support system around them. LACMA actively supports physician wellness through its MD/DO Lifeline, which provides an ever-growing list of resources, tools, and partnerships facilitating physician wellness, as well as developing its Wellness Roadmap for member organizations.
“The factors driving healthcare professional burnout before the pandemic were at epidemic levels. During and following the public health crisis, we’ve seen sharp increases in physician and healthcare worker burnout rates: from suicide, depression, substance and alcohol abuse to many leaving the profession,” LACMA CEO Gustavo Friederichsen told Physicians News Network. “LACMA has developed the MD/DO Lifeline and the Wellness Roadmap to provide physicians and the healthcare workforce with real solutions that will improve retention, reduce attrition and create stronger job satisfaction and patient outcomes. In addition, LACMA has an alliance with the Harvard backed Atalan to look at the financial cost of burnout.”
Physicians have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. More than half of physicians know a physician who has either considered, attempted, or died by suicide in their career, and it is estimated that a million Americans lose their physician to suicide each year.
Unfortunately, the state of physician well-being in 2023 remains low, while residents and medical students struggle even more.
Three-quarters of medical students have felt inappropriate feelings of anger, tearfulness, or anxiety, as well as 7 in 10 residents and over half of physicians.
More than half of medical students, a third of physicians, and 4 in 10 residents have felt hopeless or that they have no purpose.
Over two-thirds of medical students report withdrawing from family, friends, and co-workers, as well as more than half of residents and 4 in 10 physicians.
These feelings can lead to burnout and, when left untreated, can cause more cases of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and lead to suicidal thoughts for physicians, directly impacting physician suicide rates.
However, physicians, residents, and students have identified solutions they need to improve their mental health and well-being. Now is the time to get mental health resources in the hands of current and future physicians, remove intrusive mental health questions from licensing and credentialing applications, and take action to create a culture of well-being in medical schools, residency programs, and workplaces.
For more information about actions that you can take to prevent physician suicide, as well as to access resources, visit NPSADay.org and lacmamembers.com/mdlifeline.