Doctor suicide: where are the vigils, cards & flowers?

How-We-Honor-Our-Doctors-Wible

Two days ago a beautiful young doctor jumped to her death beside her NYC hospital. A resident in the victim’s building writes:

“I first heard of this tragedy from your Facebook page. I am so disgusted by the silence. I am having a hard time understanding why there are not flowers by where she passed. I don’t understand why there wasn’t a candlelight vigil marking the tragedy.”

I’ve spent 5 years studying 757 doctor suicides. I’ve yet to see any doctors piling up flowers in front of the hospital for their dead colleagues. Or any patients leaving cards of appreciation and love for their dead doctors. Or any hospital CEO or staff holding candles while crying and hugging each other at midnight vigils. Why?

How should we respond on a medical campus when a doctor who has dedicated her life to public service dies by suicide? Surely there should be a public memorial on the sidewalk or fence where hospital staff and patients can leave balloons, handwritten notes, candles, and photos.

Grieving among community is how we heal from unexpected tragedies.

At the residency hospital where I trained, here’s the grassroots memorial for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after an assassination attempt:

Gabby Gifford UMC

Seems every week communities are publicly grieving shootings. Since 1980, we’ve lost 379 people in the US to school shootings. That’s less than the number of doctors and medical students we lose to suicide in one year. Look what we do for school shootings. We shut down the schools. We let everyone go home. We put flowers on the doorstep of the school. We put teddy bears in the fence. We call in counselors from all over the place to come and help our students. We go to the local church and hold candles. On national news we are crying and hugging. We don’t do anything for medical students. Or doctors.

Seems we live in a word full of public memorials for everyone. Except doctors.

Here’s a ongoing memorial for a Swedish teen who took her life in the ocean in 2013.

Swedish teen suicide 1

For 10 years, I pass by this ghost bike for Oregon cyclist David Minor every time I go downtown.

David Matthew Minor Ghost Bike

Here’s an Oregon roadside memorial to fallen policeman Kelly James Fredinburg.

Kelly_James_Fredinburg_memorial_outside_Gervais,_Oregon-copy

And a memorial for actor Robin Williams who died by suicide.

robin-williams-memorial

Last Tuesday Washington State University quarterback Tyler Hilinski died by suicide. Here’s his memorial near the football stadium.

Tyler-Memorial

Two days after Tyler died, a Mount Sinai doctor jumped to her death next to her hospital. I know who she is though her name still has not been publicly released. There’s no memorial. No cards. No flowers. No candlelight vigil for the woman who devoted her entire life to healing others. Here’s how we treat doctors who die by suicide.

NYCDocSuicide1-18-18

I have one request: If you live near W. 59th St. at 10th Ave. in NYC and you pass by this spot, please leave a note, a card, or a flower for this forgotten physician. Thank you.

If you’re a physician or med student in NYC who is distressed by this suicide, please call me at 541-345-2437 or contact me here. I wish to gift you a 100% confidential off-the-grid (no EMR!) Skype or phone session with a resident physician mental health expert. Plus I’d love to talk to you too.

UPDATE: As of Sunday afternoon one woman has left a bouquet for our fallen physician.

Flowers-for-doctor-copy

Sunday (3 days after her death) now 4 bouquets:

Flowers-for-Suicide-Doctor-2

Monday 1/22 afternoon:

Flowers-for-Suicide-Doctor-3

Tuesday afternoon bouquets arriving from all over the USA. Call Flowers by Richard 212-582-3505 to order a bouquet of flowers to honor this brilliant and beautiful young doctor.

4Flowers4Doctor

Wednesday (1/24) more bouquets.

5.-Flowers-For-Doctor

I’m sitting here on the pavement where we lost this beautiful doctor preparing for our vigil tomorrow. Please join us in honoring Dr. Deelshad Joomun on Friday, Jan 26 – 6:00 pm Candlelight Vigil at W. 59th St. & 10th Ave. Saturday, Jan 27 – 1:00 pm Memorial Walk & Press Conference – 1:00 pm gather here to place flowers & cards at memorial site. At 2:00 pm we will host a brief service and then walk to 440 W. 57th Watson Hotel Renaissance A where we will continue to celebrate her life and honor those who have died before her (until 10 pm so come by when you can).

5.-Flowers4Doctor

On this frigid and windy night I lead a vigil for Deelshad Joomun MD (read eulogy here). More than 33 people attended.

DeelshadJoomunGathering

DeelshadJoomunCandle

Please also read:  My eulogy for Dr. Deelshad Joomun and Suicided doctor: covered up with a tarp—and silence.  Refinery29 reports This hospital has a physician suicide problem.

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71 comments on “Doctor suicide: where are the vigils, cards & flowers?
  1. Pam says:

    Wow. This really hit me between the eyes. When you see all the vigils and then only a tarp for the physician, it makes me nauseous. The visuals pack a powerful punch and needs to change. Thanks for bringing this travesty to my attention.

  2. DigestiveDoc says:

    This is a very thought provoking. We had a resident physician commit suicide at our hospital the year before I started. This resident, similar to the one you mentioned, only received silent grieving by those who knew him. There was nothing public. Our program did initiate a wellness focused initiate to help future classes but I think the effect is minimal to none. Thank you for highlighting the sad truth.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      I also receive notes from PATIENTS who are distressed that nobody told them what happened to their doctors who they loved so much. They wonder for the rest of their lives what happened. This is SO unfair and hinders our grieving process—for everyone!

      • Tim Campbell says:

        I’m willing to bet that many patients have no idea that their doctor is even dead. I’m not a physician so I have no idea why this is, but doctors seem very hard to find once they have left the hospital or the practice where a patient first meets them. I’ve had quite a few doctors over the last 20 years. Many seem to leave the practice where I met them and I’ve tried to find a few — to thank them for what they have done for me and frequently it’s impossible.
        I can always tell how stressed most of the doctors I meet are. It doesn’t matter whether they are W2 employees of health systems or some of the few who remain independent. The business stress and the burdens of practice seem unfathomalbe. You just don’t see the same level of stress on the face of your plumber, accountant or lawyer (though young lawyers come close). The time pressure alone must be crushing. I always make a point of thanking my docs — some seem shocked that anyone thinks to do this. You guys have a tough profession. What can we as patients do to help?
        Thanks, Tim

        • Pamela Wible MD says:

          Oh don’t get me started on ALL the emails I get from patients wondering what happened to their doctor. These organizations have a code of silence and you are right that they never find out from the clinic or hospital that their doctor died by suicide. All they hear is “pick another doctor for your follow-up appointment.” Just like that. Ridiculous. Yet these same institutions have billboards boasting their compassionate care all over town!

        • Matt says:

          Thank you Tim for your understanding. The “thank yous” I receive from patients, although not expected, mean more than most patients could ever imagine. I see colleges who have been doing this a while “burning out”, looking for ways to get out, and losing the love of the craft of medicine in large part because doctor’s are being so cut off from patients by the corporations that enslave… I mean hire them. I would just want patients to know how much most doctors really do care about them, how much we value their willingness to allow us into their lives, and how we are equally frustrated with our current system of healthcare. Thanks for the response, and thank you Dr. Wible the the great work you continue to do.

  3. Joyce DeWitt says:

    Suicide is a very difficult event to understand, and possibly that is why people turn away from acknowledgement. It is the same thing for mental illness. Those who don’t know of it through their own struggles or through a family member, can’t fathom it. It isn’t that they don’t have empathy for victims, they just can’t wrap their heads around it and it becomes an awkward thing to fully embrace. Many people think that depression, anxiety, stress, addictions, and suicidal thoughts dwell within weaker people, and some even think that folks could “snap out of it,” by focusing on positive thoughts, getting active in the community, or staying busy. It’s unfortunate, but true, that a lot of people think these kinds of things, and furthermore, don’t really want to learn about it or study it. Suicide makes some people angry. “How could they do that to their families? Their friends? It’s so selfish! They took the cowardly way out!” And they are horrified. “How could they do that to themselves? How could they hate themselves so much? I could never hurt myself!” They have no concept whatsoever of the torture and pain that many suicide victims go through. Many have no inkling of how the mental state affects the physical, the emotional, the spiritual parts of these sad people who kill themselves. People cannot imagine how anything could be so bad, as to resort to that finality. When we say that we want to make mental illness a priority, and that we must educate others about how painful it can be, we need to face the idea that there are a lot of people who don’t want to know much about it. It is scary, it’s like dabbling with the devil. People have a fear of it rubbing off on them. “I don’t like to think about negative things like that.” That’s fine, until you do. Until you have to think about it. Until you get depressed. Or someone in your family becomes addicted to drugs, is diagnosed as bipolar, or tries and maybe succeeds to commit suicide. Then we are forced to face it. We can almost identify with the ones who have so many problems, who struggle through one disaster after another, who are alcoholic or drug addicted. It’s the ones who seem to have it all, seem to have it all so together. When they do it, we are baffled, stunned, even as we realize that obviously they did NOT have it all together. They did NOT have the perfect life. It can be so many things that trigger suicide, things that they just think they cannot live with. If only they had reached out, we think. If only they could have talked to someone, grabbed a lifeline. We can never know what is going through their minds as they step off that building or pull that trigger. But it would be nice, not just for them, but for their families, their friends and ourselves if we could honor their passing, open up our hearts to say, “Here died a very sad and disturbed person. This person had worth and was loved. We wish someone could have helped. We hope this person is now at peace. And, we hope that these offerings of flowers can show someone else who is in trouble, that they are loved, that people will miss them, and so to please ask for help.”

  4. Kate says:

    This makes me so sad. As a nurse at one of these Manhattan hospitals, I see what our residents are put through and it makes me sick to see these brilliant young people being put through this. I think the pressures on all of us are overwhelming and there has to be a better way to serve our patients while taking care of ourselves too. I see myself— with a back injury from moving patients because the hospital is too cheap to pay for appropriate equipment, trying to do the jobs of RN, tech, social worker, PT and more for more and more sicker patients with fewer and fewer resources. Taking care of people is what I love to do and being a nurse has been the center of my identity for a long time but it is starting to feel hopeless. At least, as a nurse, I get to go home after 3 days of it and this is a privilege I know our residents don’t have. I know I couldn’t take it. May this young doctor rest in peace and may we all work together to figure out how to make a better world.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Thanks Kate for being brave and speaking up about these unspeakable and hidden working conditions of our young doctors (and hospital staff).

  5. Donald Turken, MD says:

    No one can know/feel what is happening in the mind/heart of another. Empathy is difficult if not impossible. However, sympathy we can perform; we can recognize/acknowledge, if we are aware/sentient, the psychic pain experienced by us all, and psychic pain is the greatest implosive force.
    I would be curious to learn the numbers, if available, of physician suicides over the past century.
    I would guess increasing as it is my contention mental health as a political hockey puck has become an excuse, externalizing fault/blame. Over the past century plus we have weakened ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally exponentially from the Industrial Revolution to the Technology Explosion.
    Modern medical education and its concomitant hazing dates from the 1917 Flexner Report. As the field has expanded, the dumping has gotten worse. The mental health issues begin at the top of the heap, the directors and executives who set off the flow of shit downhill. I would be curious to know, too, what set off the dictatorial Machiavellian domination of the field to be king of the hill over all they survey and the irresponsibility over the effects they cause, over the wreckage left in their wake.
    I do consider the system got out of first gear following WWII and the seismic alterations of the wakened giant of western domination. But that is another story.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      “I would be curious to learn the numbers, if available, of physician suicides over the past century.”

      I’d be very curious too. I’d also like to know the #s of medical student deaths.

      Sadly, I do not feel they are being accurately tracked (and with med students they are not tracked at all).

      • Donald Turken, MD says:

        I expect you are right. Not caring borders on sociopathy and may enter psychopathy. When I lived in Mexico, I noticed life is cheap. With little effort when visiting back in US (Untied Stakes of Anemia), I realized life is cheap here, too, just covered up. Life is precious and should be valued. All life. The human creature is not aware and does not pay attention to its surroundings passing on a learning experience, whereas other animals learn their surroundings as soon as they arrive by using all senses. Life is precious and should be valued. Life is tenuous and nothing is guaranteed beyond there is a beginning and an end. In the meanwhile, breathe and use your senses to live learn love, difference is an opportunity to learn and to teach.

  6. Julie says:

    Are there any bouquets for homeless people, victims of psychiatry, a bogus branch of medicine, who die in the cold? Does anyone care when an inmate in a state institution, *assumed* violent (most likely not) and locked up for a decade, dies while illegally held IN FIVE POINT RESTRAINTS?? No. Because that’s considered “treatment.”

    It’s not just the doctors who abuse, it’s the whole damn system.

  7. Danny says:

    Wow, it breaks my heart to read something like this. As a medical student, it scares me to think this is what I have to look forward to after my training. Pamela, thank you for shining light on this tragedy and waking up the medical community before it’s too late. I sometimes wonder if there’s more we can do to help the younger generations of physicians to maintain their humanity and sanity before something like this happens. We need a revolution to happen in medicine fast!

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      We can only do what we can do. Those in leadership must foster a human environment and stop blaming the victims of their failed educational system. Meditation and CBT is not the solution for human rights violations. Danny, just continue to be your loving beautiful self. You are a gift to this world and to all who have the honor to cross paths with you. Thank you for being.

  8. Denise Weber says:

    I trained at this hospital. Graduated in 2007. A lot has changed since then, including a new administration, so I don’t think my experience there holds much insight now. This is outright nauseating. A sucker punch to the gut. Prayers for this doctor’s family, colleagues and friends. Such a tragedy.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Since you are familiar with NYC residency programs, what do you think can be done?

      • Denise says:

        The context has to change, from ‘you have to do it all, alone, and now” to “we are a team and we work together for the good of everyone.” There were a few attendings who lived in abundance, were kind and thoughtful but many were overworked, stressed, and rushed which of course spilled over to the residents.

        Nothing about residency resembles what we know about quality education. Some of my fellow residents were foreign grads, who were fully trained attendings, but had to go through residency again in order to work in the US. They were VERY well trained in their home country, especially those from Pakistan and India. I asked several of them if their original training was like the one at SLR, would they be as as good as they are. Everyone said no. In their country of origin, there was far more focus on the resident learning than on admissions and discharges. I guess it’s all about money in the US.

  9. Mark Luce MD says:

    My parents are both Doctors. I have had a great career in medicine, but times have really changed. When I was a child my parents were heroes in our community. Now we spend more time treating lawyers and insurance companies than we do treating patients. The patients and the administrators demand more and more and there is less and less thanks. I hear there are now occasions that medical school classes do not fill. (Applications are clearly way down.) This is a progressively demanding job with diminishing returns. One more way that America is about to reap what it sows. You can not keep loving when you get no love in return. Bless all of those (including a close friend of my own) who have paid the ultimate price for this imbalance.

  10. Mark Susskind says:

    Surprising that the AMA does not keep a registry of physician suicides.
    Sad to think that the stigma of suicide may be hindering public awareness.
    Keep up the fight to raise awareness.

  11. Kimberly Oelhafen says:

    I will do everything personally to not let this healer suffer in silence any more. I have no doubt she suffered quietly for far too long. My heart pains for her. May you Rest In Peace always. And know you are heard

  12. tali says:

    This is an incredibly tragic story, Dr. Wible. And I am so sorry that this doctor was in so much pain.
    I’m a medical student in NYC and it has become normalized for classmates, when asked how they are doing, to respond with “dead on the inside.” We’ve all hear things like this on tv shows and movies as a punch line for the stereotypical “gothic” character, but this is not a joke. I have a number of classmates who are literally just trying to get through the day without crying or making a joke about wishing there were vending machines with Prozac. Of course everyone’s tune changes when there is a superior in earshot. That’s when the smiles and convincing sense of stability show up. I’m very fortunate to be in a state of mind where I do not feel like I am suffering. But now I know there is help if or the nI need it. I am so glad that you are launching awareness about what happens when human beings aren’t allowed to openly express the very emotions that make us …. human beings.

  13. Lorraine De Blanche, M.D. says:

    Pamela – these images say it all…… my heart is so sore for the young doctor and all her patients and loved ones staying behind…. The photo of the tarp captures this situation of physician suicides better than words could ever do….. The stark contrast with all the other memorials is heartbreaking….

    My husband passed away by his own hand and the terrible pain he must have been in, broke my heart for not knowing….
    Yes, prisoners may not get memorials either, but comparing physician deaths to that of prisoners is like comparing apples to oranges. Homelessness and all the issues associated with it, I consider a huge failure of civilization…..

    I do believe that people who are not in the medical field as we are, may find this situation hard to understand. Medicine is not a profession. It is our entire lives and defines who we are….
    Experiencing this terrible tragedy and the total shock and heartbreak, can only be completely appreciated by people who have had to live through it and with it every single day….

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Like you said to me on the phone a month back: “If my husband had died by cancer they would have rected a statue in the center of town celebrating his life. Since he died by suicide he was shunned.” Meet Dr. Jonathan Drummond Webb on Wikipedia.

  14. Michele A. Scott, MD says:

    Dr Wible, Thank you for being unafraid to display the ugly truth about physician suicides. Suicide is difficult to understand unless you have had suicidal ideations yourself. Even then, it is hard to comprehend why some humans are driven to annihilate themselves. It is horrible beyond belief that someone could be willing to end their life in order to end their pain. One thing more horrible is to be shamed, scorned, and despised for having so much pain that death is preferable to life. To be ignored, forgotten, literally stepped over by an unfeeling world is the most horrible thing of all. I wish I could leave a physical memorial for the woman in NYC. My memorial instead will be to live my life as fully as I can.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Thank you Michele for your profound words. Shunning the suicide victim is an outrage. As is not allowing the community to grieve such a loss. A tarp? Silence? Secrecy? And the way her body was thrown into a body bag by police witnessed by a bystander is just heartbreaking. This beautiful compassionate woman spent her life healing and helping others. I can not allow the world to trample my brothers and sisters in medicine for one more day.

  15. Peter K says:

    Does anyone care??? We dedicate our live to help others at the expense of our personal wellbeing. We give away some of the best years of our lives to learn our craft. We are treated like a commodity. We take home the pain of our patients. This causes us to sabotage the little personal life we do have. We berate ourselves for being human. We are vilified when we make mistakes. We don’t stand together. The tragedy is that I’m surprised when I see these stories anymore. I’m shocked it isn’t more prevalent. (It most likely is). I will grieve for this young doctor and her family. Unfortunately I will probably be grieving for another colleague soon. I’ve let my mind take me to some very dark places. I thank God that I have never acted on the thoughts when it gets dark. Doctors are human. That comes with imperfections. Unfortunately we are not allowed that privilege. I wish someone would have been able to help this young woman. Let her know that she was not alone. So few of us feel we can admit we are hurting. Many of us feel the same agony. If anyone in jeopardy is reading this, PLEASE DON’T HURT YOURSELF!! There are people that love you.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Peter, I love that you are adding your voice here. You will find that a large part of our healing will come when we can all start telling the truth of our experiences. Collective healing WILL take place once we stop fearing being human and revealing the TRUTH. Thank you for being brave!!

  16. cornel bacauanu says:

    Terribly sad . Condolences to the family . We need to come up with a solution to this epidemic NOW! Should be all over the media immediately as other stupid things are posted on daily basis.

  17. Tim Campbell says:

    I’m very sympathetic to physician suicide and suicide in general. As far as memorials are concerned, I think the issue is suicide, not physician suicide. I’ve known a few people who have taken their own lives and know of a few more. As a general proposition, almost nothing is said by the person’s family or work colleagues. Had these same folks been killed in an accident or been murdered, there would have been memorials and much time and energy spent by friends and family trying to prevent the next accident, murder, fatal illness, etc. People are afraid of the very concept of suicide–as though to talk about it is to bring on the next one.
    Any idea how the numbers of physician suicides stack up against other professionals, for example lawyers? The plurality of the folks I’ve known who have killed themselves have been lawyers. The two professions don’t always get along (though I know many doctor/lawyer couples), but they have much in common and perhaps much to learn from each other about mental illness, substance abuse and unwillingness to reach out for help.
    It sounds as though docs have a harder time asking for help with mental health and substance abuse issues. Perhaps it is more stigmatized than among lawyers, other professionals or other folks. Every profession or job category needs to work to overcome that stigma of asking for or receiving help. This issue should be addressed in medical school and frequently thereafter. Unless doctors get proactive on overcoming the stigma of illness and treatment thereof, and proactive in identifying their colleagues who are suffering, the deaths will keep coming to quickly, silently and profoundly sadly.

  18. Lisa says:

    I agree this is aweful and so sad.it hits close to home. I love what you’re doing Pamela…..however, I tried to contact you about 2 months ago. I’m an obgyn and was trying to start my own ideal practice. I was getting so frustrated and depressed as I kept hitting barriers. I expressed this frustration and feelings of hopeless, even suicidal at times to you in an email. You offered me a $400 phone consultation!! Sad
    Luckily I found help elsewhere, and unfortunately I am back in my old job. I failed at my ideal practice, but atleast I’m alive and getting depression treated. Not your fault, but as much as you seem to want help, I was really surprised. I hope this physician didn’t turn to you for help and get turned away for a $400 fee. Thanks for all you’re doing to promote this cause, but atleast give a less expensive alternative when people reach out to you. Even a crisis 1-800# could be more helpful.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Oh I speak to anyone with mental health issue for free. 24/7 suicide warmline/hotline unfunded for 5 years and all gratis no charge. I do have a business strategy call for $250 (my business strategy work allows me to support my many philanthropic endeavors). I don’t charge anyone $400 so not sure what happened with our communication there. I still also have my clinic where I still see patients and have NEVER turned anyone away for lack of money.

    • Patricia says:

      As a second year medical student a few months ago I sent a message to Dr. Wible because I felt I was not good enough anymore and she responded to me within 24 hours. She didn’t know who I was or even really what was going on with me. We later even had a chance to speak on the phone – and I was not charged a penny. I don’t know think it is productive to put people down on this playform. We are all on the same team. Condolences to the family and to the beautiful soul that the world lost I hope and pray that through combined efforts we can prevent this from happening again. Thank you Dr. Wible for all that you do, and thank you for personally helping me in my own times of doubt.

  19. Reena E. says:

    Hello Dr. Pam,
    I am stunned by every aspect of this tragic, senseless, and all to frequent event. My sincere sympathies to go out to her family, friends, colleagues,and patients. I wish I was not 5000 miles away from NYC, because she deserves better than (however well intended) a few flowers and to have a tarp thrown over her. My heart breaks to think of the pain and sense of helplessness that must have driven her to this so very desperate action. As a long time patient, suffering from a rare and incurable disease, this loss shows me just how truly broken out medical “industrial complex” truly is. Enough to break the a humans spirit enough to make this an event that occurs at a the staggering (yet somehow in noticed by the media) rate of approximately 400 physician suicides that happen every year…in this country. Again, we lose a piece of our future,of ourselves, we are denied the ongoing presence and efforts of a beautiful Healer who brought hope, help, and eased the suffering of so many. But sadly, couldn’t researcher own pain. My sympathies to out to all those most directly, and likely permanently, who will never find peace in the face of one question….How could this happen,and why? It is with sincere grief and a deep sense of empathy and compassion that I extend my condolences and pray that somehow, this terrible loss will force The Powers That Be to recognize and admit that our “healthcare crisis” is so much more complex than they’d care to admit. Respectfully, R.M. Etheridge

  20. glcf says:

    Thank you Dr. Wible for pointing out this sad truth. It is heartbroken that physician suicides are kept silent and there is no public memorial like other suicides… I was looking for the memorial to leave a bouquet today. However, I could not find the memorial.. I hope the flowers left by people before were still there. May this physician rest in peace.

  21. glcf says:

    Thank you Dr. Wible for pointing out this sad truth. It is heartbroken that physician suicides are kept silent and there is no public memorial like other suicides… I was looking for the memorial to leave a bouquet today. However, I could not find the memorial.. I hope the flowers left by people before are still there. May this physician rest in peace.

  22. Steve Alexander Velleman says:

    People don’t want to face the insecurity of life and the uncertainty of the future. We have to demythologize doctors, they are only human and don’t have all the answers, although some of them like to think they do. People give to much power to medicine and medicine is too eager to accept it, instead of encouraging a not-knowing position, a humility in front of the burden of disease and an absolute respect for the person behind the disease, doctor and patient alike. Yes physicians make mistakes, yes, Bigpharma runs psychiatry but by forgetting the person behind the doctor, we’re killing them softly. R.I.P., sweet soul..

  23. PETER WARSHAW says:

    This is terrible. Our system of medical education needs severe attention; otherwise, this problem will continue. The stigma against suicide and mental illness are major reasons, but not the only reasons. We must eliminate this system of education and training by shame but the benefit of all.

  24. tom fiero says:

    thank you Pamela. for your efforts and diligence, and wellness retreats.
    perhaps some day we, as a society, will know how to deal with people, (doctors, residents, others) who are buckling under the stresses of our training and career, and private lives.
    that day is certainly not today.

    i know there is an awareness that is trickling into the light, thanks to you, and others (we have a “wellness ” division in our organization at VEP).
    but , i think, we have a good ways to go. the first step i think, is acknowledging when there is a problem. it seems, it this last horrific case, it hasn’t even been made public.

    tom fiero

  25. A number of years ago I organized an event at the hospital where I worked. It addressed suicide in LGBTQ youth and in physicians, identifying them both as disenfranchised populations whose pain was given no forum and, therefore, no voice. I chose to create this event after I witnessed the incredible and highly visible support given to one hospital physician diagnosed with terminal cancer, in contrast to the deafening silence and invisibility with which the same community surrounded another physician who attempted suicide and almost died of terminal depression. If we provide no safe sanctuary to which those in such pain may carry their burden, how then can we carry such a safe space to any, peers or patients, who so deeply need our willingness and support? Our society is suffering from an epidemic of isolation and loneliness. When we place a national tarp over such pain, we violate the most fundamental foundation of medicine…to first do no harm. I deeply commend you, Pamela, for pulling away the tarp and laying bare our individual and collective pain. And I equally commend all who have come here to join you in refusing to accept the anonymity and invisibility of lone body bag after body bag. Thank you.

  26. By the way, as I was developing and bringing to life this event, I was profoundly struck by the concurrent transformation which was being realized in the focus and structure of the state’s Impaired Professionals Program, from one more clinically and supportively concentrated to one of a legal and punitive nature. More silence and body bags anyone?!

  27. Susan Stevens says:

    This is so terribly sad. Thank you, Dr. Wible, for remembering these forgotten souls. I am reeling from the image of the doctors realizing that one of their colleagues was preparing to jump to her death and felt unable to help. I don’t think I’d ever get over that.

  28. Jean Steichen MD says:

    When. I was a fellow a very prominent professor in my specialty commits suicide He jump from the roof of the hispital on landed on the car of the CEO I remember as a young doctor how disgusted I was that his collègues joked that he showed the CEO what he thought of him I decided to say something like His death is a great loss for all of us They just ignored me i never forgot that moment and lost respect
    I want to tell my experience and it is very fortunately for a very different story a very positive and as I learned from your work Pamela it us unique and the very rare exception the and from what I leaned from your efforts Pamela
    I lost my son a first year medical student 11 years ago He was a very well lioved and admired by his fellow students They put a memory book in the students lounge to write about him The stories ( over a 100) were moving honoring him telling how much he will be missed i learned wonderful things about him I did not know The school had an official memorial honoring him students and faculty speaking The students created an award in his honor that is given every year to a first year student who has been the most ready to help other students.
    My son wanted to be a neurosurgeon and his ambition was to solve brain cancer in children and a foundation. “Pediatric Neurocancer Foundation”
    named after him
    Unfortunately my son’s story is exceptionally rare I little ray of hope in the sad shameful story how wonderful doctor precious human beings are shunned by their peers .

  29. Dara says:

    I found out about this today from a friend that knew her. I’ve forwarded this article as well. I plan to leave a bouquet when I get back home from locums (someone mentioned in a related article that NYC is a terrible place for doctors to work—which is why I choose to work out of state—-it’s true and something has to be done). The culture of ‘physician contempt’ has to change. I don’t have the answers but at least we have to be open, honest and willing to be vulnerable. Not the image most of the public has of doctors! I’ve heard so many snide comments about doctors that I’ve actually stopped telling people that I am one…unless absolutely pressed to do so. We have to keep talking about it. To our colleagues and friends and family who are willing to listen. I’ve been talking incessantly about it, and some people in my circles are finally starting to get it.

  30. Julie says:

    What no one likes to talk about are the obvious socioeconomic differences. Maybe it’s okay in our cruel society if a less privileged person decides it’s just not worth it.

    What if doctors weren’t so privileged? In other countries they are not so highly paid. Med schools pay a part here, too.

    What I dislike is the association in PW’s writing between doctor/privilege and moral uprightness (and even, beauty). Sorry. It just gets to me. Like why is a suicide of a doctor somehow ten times more horrible than the suicide of someone that doctor “sectioned” to a back ward last month?

    Who is to measure human worthiness? Some religions say there’s a god that does such things, and for others, the human innate sense of right and wrong. I hope not the MD!

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      All are worthy, of course. Teenagers, football players, bicyclists have vigils & flowers, cards, etc . . . weird that doctors don’t get the same care and compassion that most give so selflessly throughout their careers.

  31. Ruth Atkinson says:

    I would be devastated if I had learned, after the fact, that my doctor of 12 years had passed, cause of death would not be my focus…I would want to have the knowledge so to extend my condolences to her boys, her partner, her nurse teams and staff. As a patient I think we forget they are humanw, not SUPER-Humans. They have feelings, families, obligations like all of us. They play down any of their ups n downs when speaking to patients. I often ask myself. “I wonder who takes care of Dr V. When she is ill?” THANKS for this article…raising awareness to this issue

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Hug your doctor and give a card of appreciation and flowers next time you come in. Always better to give flowers while living than at the funeral.

  32. RB MSN, RN says:

    I am a RN. I now work exclusively with surgery residents and med students when they come on their rotation. I have also written the policies and procedures for a non-profit that is state-contracted thru the Dept of Human Services.
    To the nurses who wonder what they can do, I am still working on this but have found a few things. If a resident looks down, sad, or tired, ask them if they are okay. Not if they are competent, but if they are ok. Put your arm around them. When their cat dies and you see them sitting at the computer station sobbing, hug them. I am starting to send wellness texts. I ask them how they are doing and if there is anything I can do for them. And I mean it. As a RN, if you just watched a resident have her ass handed to her by her attending during rounds, give her a look of encouragement. Walk past her later and whisper to her, “You rock. You can do this.” I don’t give a crap if she was totally off or if “its just how that attending is”. Say
    To the person who wrote about prisoners and homeless. These things are sad and unfortunate, and those with poor intent prevail from time to time. However, these events are reported, investigated, and there are extensive policies in place to prevent, protect, and justify to near ridiculous levels. Until you have seen the difference in the demands and expectations, programs offering assistance and legislative action and advocacy being made for each, please don’t compare.
    Thanks Pam- lets keep being loud. Every life is valuable and we need our doctors!
    Having a friend place flowers….

  33. Dave says:

    I’m a current resident and perhaps blessed to be training at an extremely supportive and nurturing program. Stories like this are disheartening and I can only imagine that these NYC programs are a different breed than what I’m experiencing. It’s a wonder the ACGME isn’t more aggressive in holding programs accountable. Two things I thought might be helpful:

    1) Make it an ACGME requirement that programs submit a root cause analysis for each and every resident death. This would pick up non-suicides as well, but even those might shed light on systems that need change. Let us not forget accidental drug overdose, traffic accidents, and the like that may be fueled by systems at their programs.

    2) Implement a public – yes public – ACGME-run ranking of programs by specialty. The source data would be the ACGME survey they hound us about every year. It would be pretty easy to build some composite scores and overall score based on these data, and then RANK programs by specialty. It would be even better if the survey added some additional questions to look at things like suicidal ideation among residents.

    We all know how much programs value rankings – just look at all the gamesmanship around the USNWR and Doximity rankings. This would be a fairly inexpensive and fast way to put pressure on programs to change. I honestly believe that many programs would find themselves well below their peers in certain areas, be utterly mortified, and start working to fix it. Having a list of the best would give poor-performing programs places to turn for ideas. Finally, this would be an invaluable resource for graduating medical students who are deciding where they would like to train.

    Personally, I would pick the hospital where I’m least likely to die.

    • RB RN, MSN says:

      This is an amazing idea. I could see pushback for the ranking idea, but the RCA requirement is a must. We investigate patient incidences. We should definitely investigate this.

  34. Why are Doctors committing suicide in increasing numbers?
    Why are 22 Vets committing suicide per day?
    Why is our country overrun by chronic pain opioid additions opioid overuse and heroine death?
    Why are WE as MDs so powerless?
    Betrayed – the standards of care are full of lies!
    All fallacy, deceptive, and dishonorable inventions and cannot help people to heal from life living stress-strain beating battering and abuse: Arthritis pains only require pills, painkillers, pain management, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, blood tests, steroid injections, Botox, stem cells, epidural steroid injections, joint injections, joint replacements and spinal fusion or repair surgery.
    A. They omitted – and still ignoring and omitting – The Muscle System functions, metabolism, dysfunctions, signs, symptoms and tissue/organ failure with the ONLY 5 ways and means to help naturally heal –from within – the zillions of scattered densely embedded scars, toxic, and caustic damaged tissues.
    B. They overlooked – and still not accepting – the cumulative contributions of the dozen or so Masters of Muscle Fibers and Tissue Curative and Restorative Rehabilitation Therapeutics.
    C. Allows all of this to happen by removing a correct knowledge security system.
    D. Selling our all of souls, ~400,000,000 million Americans x 100 years for a dollar.
    The roots go back 100 years which are being fueled by US – We are our enemy!

    WE allowed the development of a system which feeds upon itself – People consuming People to maintain the economy – Modern Cannibalism.

    Shocked by those words?
    Please – People have killed People since the being of time.
    People thirsty God-like powers will be elevated into the position by these sins omissions and commissions:
    arrogance, ignorance, dogma + Want for absolute power and authority + willingness to kill to get (a means to an end) + overlook human suffering + fear, paranoia, coward obedient tormentors/assassins (MDs) with a BULLY protective guards (Feds)

    Until the AMA, HHS, DEA, FDA and every MD accepts the blame and act as a cohesive unit make corrective changes – the body counts will rise.

    I am still uncertain of Dr. Wimble true mission without addressing the original set of evil acts against innate natural healing (God Almighty):

    I’m betting many of you did not know all of this and some do not want to know.

  35. Cathy Gerszenkorn says:

    This high physician suicide rate should not be happening in this great country of ours. Since years the medical community swept it under the carpet, but now thanks to Dr. Wible and the families of physicians who died of suicide, times are changing. These tragic suicides are now becoming more visible. The AMA and its educational governing agencies (LCME and ACGME) must be coerced to institute changes to curb these unnecessary deaths. So we hope…

  36. Kristin R says:

    Very sad to see this news. Thank you for sharing, taking action and honoring her life. I vow to be a part of creating and fostering a healthier culture in medicine. So many valid comments here

  37. Pamela Wible MD says:

    “Any suicide or attempted suicide should be thoroughly investigated and subject to root cause analysis just as any other ‘incident’ at a Hospital. Ideally that evaluation should be done by a committee at a similar but anonymous institution. Was it a Resident? Was it a physician dealing with a bad ‘outcome?’ Who was the Doctor’s supervisor? Does the Hospital have a place where peers can openly discuss fears , anxieties and problems.I trained at Mt. Sinai Hops NY 50 years ago. It was high pressure but there was collegiality among all of us. Any worry about psychotherapy as a stain on a Doctor’s record should quickly be put away.I would love to set up a cooperative system of Hospitals sharing root cause analysis.” ~ Barry H Epstein MD, FACP , FACG

  38. Pamela Wible MD says:

    “I posted a heartfelt note on a private Facebook group called ‘Lives of Doctors Wives’ with over 11,000 members with the Kevin MD article and your own. Many women saw it and fiercely responded in rage about what happened and very empathetic to what I wrote and wanted justice for this dr too. But get this——the admin on the group DELETES my post! Apparently you can’t post a call to action. I’m so upset——this group only talks about cookie recipes. WTF. If you’re going to have a group called ‘lives of drs Wives’ we need to talk about these issues, so much more important than trading moving tips, come on. Anyways fortunately SO many women posted separately with just a link to your articles and KevinMDs and so the conversation is still going. They have so much praise for you in all of the comments. I was going to screen shot and send them to you till they frickin’ deleted my post.” ~ wife of a doctor (who wishes to remain anonymous)

  39. Dr.Terri Cooper says:

    I just ordered votive candles and a stuffed animal to be delivered. Bless you Pamela for taking on such an enormous task of an unmentionable/taboo subject. I hope the other doctors working in the hospital next door will look out and know they are not alone!

  40. R says:

    Western medicine is combat medicine We use a canon of antibiotic to kill a small organism. Our training is based on combat, that is why we are to be trained as if we are in combat, under sleep deprivation. Surgical field arose out of necessity to help the soldiers. Each pill combats something.

    All ancient medicine of different traditions arise from spirituality or have some connection with the human spirit. The ancient respects and works with the nature and the intangible.

    Modern physicians are taught to work according to the standardized evidence-based medicine provided by the research typically funded by large pharmaceutical corporations, typically with political ties. Physicians must never use their intuition or wisdom openly because it is not reproducible.

    The miraculous cures are often attributed to placebo effect. There is no money in placebo. Really? There is no money for the corporations, but it is money for the patients. Until the patients realize the placebo effect, the intangible natural medicine, patients will always rely on and support standardized evidenced based medicine to combat their diseases.
    More patients now see physicians as puppets of pharmaceutical companies,or as obstacles to the prescriptions that Mr. Google says they need.
    As physicians, we will be told we are not working hard enough, not good enough, simply not enough by administrators, patients, politicians and lawyers. Isn’t that how they do basic training the Navy Seals or Marines? But that is only 13 weeks, maximum months, and they never have to worry about liability after training. After spending 21 years in school, finally get a basic medical license, then for the rest of our lives, we will give and give and give, because from all directions, we are told we are not enough.

    Now that this young physician has had enough, I hope she released all those lies from combat medicine. Rest in peace. Know that you are always been enough. You are complete. You have always been enough.

  41. Pathology Resident says:

    Hi Dr. Wible, I’m a pathology resident, and I just wanted to drop you a note to thank you for all you do in regards to physicians’ mental health awareness. Your article on KevinMD about physician suicides was particularly poignant. I plan to be a medical examiner, and when I did my rotation at the local ME office we had a case with a physician suicide. This person had completed suicide in their car, in the clinic parking lot, during their lunch break. When they didn’t come back to clinic for the afternoon, the staff went looking and found them. 🙁 If it was tough for the medical examiners to handle this case (a stranger, but also a fellow physician and member of the medical community), I can’t imagine how it was for their colleagues. It rattled all us MD’s and DO’s working that day. It hits close to home for me, as I put up with severe anxiety for far too long as a med student before I finally decided to see a psychiatrist and get on medication and into therapy—and that was by far one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I’m “out” about my diagnosis to the point of probably oversharing, but it’s mind-boggling how many colleagues I’ve talked to who were shocked and said that 1. They’d felt exactly the same way, and 2. They’d just assumed that they were the only ones, since especially in the Midwest, nobody talks much about mental health. I figure I’ll deal with any stigma, because if my experiences help other physicians, then it’s well worth the trade-off.

  42. Pamela Wible MD says:

    FROM A BYSTANDER who wishes that I post anonymously.

    Dear Dr. Wible,

    Yesterday I was at the site of Thursday’s tragic death (in NYC) and left a bouquet of flowers. I must have left the flowers right after yesterday’s picture was taken.

    Thank you for what you do. Your posts on your blog and your Facebook page have been helpful to me to process this heartbreaking event. I am not a physician or a nurse, I was a bystander, when she fell to her death.

    I was inadvertently pulled into the last few seconds of this doctor’s life. I am grieving a person I never knew. Your blog has helped humanize this person for me and has helped me work through my profound sadness for this doctor that was not able to find another way out of her pain.

    Over the last days I have read the posts on your blog and Facebook page. I was saddened to learn about the high suicide rate among physicians. Please continue to care for the wonderful physicians in our many clinics and hospitals.

    Thank you.

    -A Bystander

  43. Amy says:

    Sending bouquets of flowers and love from my heart, sending healing for this soul, her loved ones and all that suffer. Honoring her life in the massive action that comes from our sadness and grief from this tragedy. These images are powerful. Thank you Pam.

  44. abc says:

    Its heart-wrenching to see how no-one seems to care when a fellow doctor/trainee ends their life. Being a physician myself, I know just what it takes to make it through med school, the residency, fellowship program and then being an attending. Long inhumane hours, work pressure, board exams, bullying by the senior doctors, isolation and utter loneliness are enough to crumble anyone. we are all in this together and yet we don’t try to see the signs or reach out to each other. Why are we suffering in silence ?? Why can’t we all unite and take a stand. why does a sincere, good hearted, hard working doctor have to be driven to such an extent that they see death as the only comfort.

  45. Peter Rouvelas says:

    Pamela, Some of the best and worst people I’ve met in life were during residency and fellowship training. Unfortunately a culture of physician abuse led by many professorial elites pervade the hallways of academia. Exploitative tactics are often mimicked by senior residents against their junior brethren, to show off their “toughness”. When joint commission comes in, everyone is told to feed them the company line that “ All is great at this wonderful institution “. Fear of further retribution is real if anything else is said. It’s no wonder that young graduates are often broke, broken, addicted, divorced and even suicidal. Many unfortunately don’t make it to graduation. Despite the injustices, most persevere, learn, grow, experience and thrive academically. It speaks to the resolve of young healers who must navigate the minefields of training. It’s this strength that serves them well in their medical career, yet not always in their personal life and wellness. For many this form of PTSD, is similar to a Vietnam Vet trying to live a normal civilian life. Many never fully recover. The solution comes from all of us who have survived and endured. First, to loudly denounce any known abuses. Confront the abusers directly in support of those abused. Praise, educate, uplift, and support all residents who you encounter. Serve as a role model, both as a real person and a healer. Most importantly, never, ever cover up known abuses because you may be watching a dead healer being covered with a tarp instead.

  46. I am so sorry for this tortured young woman, who felt she was left with no choice but to suicide to stop the agony. May she be at peace. I am sorry for her family, her friends, her patients, her coworkers. It is sad that before the intervention of Pamela Wible MD, her memorial was a tarp over her body, then silence and nothingness, as if her life mattered nought. I am sorry for the present suffering of most residents and most employed physicians. I thank Pamela Wible MD for giving me the confidence to leave that tormented population. I also thank Pamela Wible MD very much so for offering “Off-the-Grid” Skype or phone session with a resident physician mental health expert. Help without consequence to career is paramount to preventing suicide in physicians.

    • Peter Rouvelas says:

      Help is needed without thought of career consequences! A resilient healer will eventually forge their own professional path. No career is worth a life, NONE! No abuse should be tolerated, NONE! We must decry and drain the swamp of abuse and elitism that abound the halls of academia. We must stand together and support our most vulnerable healers. We do this for our patients, but not for one another. Collectively, we are to blame, and only we can right injustices. Don’t expect solutions from hospitals, government, or insurance companies. We must rise above a culture of abuse to one of genuine love and respect. Unite and save our healers!

  47. Madina Joomun Haulkhory says:

    Hi, I’m very sad to lose my lovely cousin.

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