Weekly Private Physician Retreats →

100% tax-deductible business strategy retreats for physicians—every week! Enjoy a luxury spa resort with gourmet meals, in-room Jacuzzi, and one-on-one guidance from Dr. Wible for up to 5 days. Request preferred dates here.

What physicians are saying:

“In my life as the son of a doctor and a psychiatrist, I’ve run across all kinds of would-be healers and experts of the mind. I’ve never come across anyone like you or anything like this experience—the depth of clarity and awareness that you brought to this process you were facilitating within me—I just don’t know how to talk about it or find words. You were laser-focused on lighting a path for me to discover my dreams. You were working on a different dimension that I couldn’t quite see. And you did it without any pretenses or judgement or bullshit. Now I understand the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for.’ The point is not to be careful. It is to wish—and to do it connected to someone who knows a thing or two about how to make dreams come true.” ~ Psychiatrist, Wisconsin

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No, you’re not a “badass.” Self-abuse is just bad. →

Who has the best work ethic? The doctor who does 9 surgeries while injected with a painkiller for appendicitis? Or the cardiologist who vomits 4 pints of blood after a 64-hour shift?  The pulmonologist running an ICU during a life-threatening asthma attack? Or the orthopaedist who completes a total hip replacement during active labor? The new intern on NICU with a hemoglobin of 6?  Or the OB who has an MI during a C-section then heads down the hall for a cardiac cath and bypass? The nocturnist vomiting all night before hsi own admission for acute renal failure? Or the OB who delivers her baby and gets up two hours later to deliver twins? Maybe it’s the dehydrates ED doc on a 24-hour shift with a fractured pelvis doubled over in pain from gallstones who lands in the OR after never calling in sick in 18 years. ALL TRUE STORIES.

There is no winner when we work our doctors to death.

Stop glorifying physician self-abuse while mandating self-care.

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Duchess vs. Doctor: Why Meghan Markle’s mental health matters to me →

Whether you like her or not, Meghan is speaking openly about suicide. For that, I am thankful.

In her interview with Oprah, The Duchess of Sussex shared her suicidal thoughts—and how she was obstructed from mental health care, told to “tough it out” and keep smiling. The Duchess needed a doctor. Yet doctors are reported to have the highest suicide rate of any profession as we’ve also been obstructed from mental health care, told to “suck it up” and keep smiling. That’s why “happy” doctors die by suicide. We’re seen as privileged with no rights to complain. So we hide our pain for fear of being stripped of our titles.

A physician friend witnessed 13 patients die in one day then dealt with a physician trainee’s suicide attempt before begging for help. Superiors told her to drive out of town, pay cash, and use a pseudonym.

Most patients seek health care without jeopardizing their careers, yet doctors must report anxiety, PTSD, even postpartum depression and release medical records in applications for state medical licensing and hospital privileges year after year. Lie and you lose your license.

After surviving my own brush with suicide, I began a hotline to help suicidal doctors. A decade later, I’m still shocked by what I hear. A few recent real-life scenarios . . .

To ensure confidential mental health care, physicians:

Use fake names or pseudonyms
Pay cash or crypto (not insurance)
Drive 300 hundred miles out of town
Snailmail scripts to Canadian pharmacies
Pay cash for drugs at multiple out-of-state pharmacies
Self-medicate with in-office drugs
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Grieving the loss of our doctors →

How to cope with the unexpected loss of physicians in loving memory of Drs. J. Barton Williams and Timothy H. Krahn of OrthoSouth in Memphis. Live event hosted on Saturday, February 27, for all clinic staff. If you are grieving the death of a physician you may find comfort and guidance in this recorded session.

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Preventing suicides among health professionals →

This evening I spoke with health professionals at Thurston-Mason County Medical Society in Washington state in the aftermath of the loss of two beloved emergency physicians who died by suicide. Colleagues and family members gathered to honor the lives of Drs. Matthew E. Seaman and John W. Hautala. If you are struggling as a health professional, please contact Dr. Pamela Wible.

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5 things NOT to do after a medical student or doctor suicide →

Just off the phone with a USC Keck med student who told me he lost his classmate to suicide this week on my way to Memphis to lead a suicide postvention program for a medical group after a senior colleague killed himself. In the last decade assisting hospitals and medical schools in the aftermath of suicides, I’ve witnessed half-hearted responses, non-responses, even threats to intimidate staff after a suicide. In the words of physician loss survivors, here’s what we should never do after a suicide:

1. Don’t use euphemisms for doctor suicide.

Euphemisms like “went to be with the Lord” and “passed away peacefully at home” cover up the cause of death and do not allow us to grieve or heal properly. Loss survivors have an increased risk of suicide. As medical professionals it is our duty to offer proper postvention with clear communication after a suicide.

“My hospital has once again had a trainee suicide last week, and of course there were ‘no signs’ that he was struggling. Nice guy, worked Monday anesthetizing patients. Found dead at home Wednesday. Only in his early thirties. The work email used euphemisms like ‘sadly found suddenly dead at home.’ Who do these euphemisms protect? ~ Sylvia

2. Don’t ignore doctor suicides.

All doctors deserve a morbidity and mortality conference so we as medical professionals understand what went wrong and how we can prevent future suicides.

“We’ve had three physician suicides in the thirteen years I’ve been at my job since leaving fellowship and I was shocked at how quickly they were given a cursory, sad nod, then forgotten. During medical school one classmate blew his brains out and it received barely a mention at the time from our professors.” ~ Paula

“I just lost another colleague today. He is the second one in two months. He didn’t show up to work and was found dead on his couch. It was obvious he was sickly for months, but he just kept going. I don’t know if the autopsy will find suicide or cancer or something else. Either way if it was suicide by drugs or suicide by self-neglect, I’m tired of losing people and scared of being the next victim of this epidemic. What is there to do?!” ~ Mary

3. Don’t just say, “Get back to work.”

Always ask if colleagues need a mental health day or time to recover. Proper group support in the form of skilled suicide postvention should be offered within the first 24-72 hours with optional follow-up sessions for the community over the months thereafter. Healing and grief recovery require time and community.

“In anesthesiology, it seems we have a higher percentage of death by suicide than other medical specialties. My colleague took his own life over a year ago. I was basically okay until then, but it’s how everyone reacted that really got me. The show must go on. We diverted patients the first night, probably because the ER had to see Joe when he came in. The next day all of us were back at work in the operating room. There was no time to grieve and we in the department were so stunned we did not know what we needed and what to ask for. It felt like abuse to not honor him or his colleagues with some rescheduling of operations. I will never be the same. I no longer see medicine as a force for good. It seems like it is a way for other people to make money off our talent, intelligence, education, or determination. He was my friend!” ~ Bruce

4. Don’t punish doctors by asking remote mental health questions on job applications.

Focus on current competence on job applications, credentialing forms, medical board licensing applications. See Physician-Friendly States for Mental Health: A Review of Medical Boards.

“I suspect that you would be hard-pressed to find one of us who isn’t at least sometimes suicidal. We’re just not allowed to admit it as it would end our careers.” ~ James

“Physicians are treated as criminals and tracked more closely than Level III sex offenders,” reports a general surgeon. “Answering all these questions on applications, the subtle, unspoken lesson is ‘you had better be squeaky clean, mentally, morally and physically! If you step off the shining path, bad things will occur.’ I have known 7 male physicians who died by suicide. Most with a ‘happy’ exterior. Why? They cannot confide in colleagues for fear that their colleagues will turn them in to hospitals and boards—and there goes their privileges and livelihood. They cannot confide in their spouses because during rough patches mentally, their marriages are already in trouble. If they share psychological problems, they probably fear that the wife may use this as ammunition in any future divorce. So they keep on smiling—right up to the hour they die.” ~ Anonymous Surgeon

5. Don’t shun a doctor who survives a suicide attempt.

Medical professionals should support each other emotionally as brothers and sisters in medicine. We need each other.

“I don’t think the public understands the severity of the pressures that a practicing physician faces. And I don’t know how to make them—or, especially, my fellow physicians, understand. There is so much denial in the profession. I could go on and on about how I became the ‘invisible doctor’ to my colleagues who would walk right by me without acknowledging my presence after my suicide attempts. I’d walk down the street, or go into a restaurant or movie theater, and there would be one of the doctors I used to work with. Before I could say anything, that doctor would turn aside or move away. It was bizarre. I had become invisible. Of all my colleagues, only two made contact with me to express their concern. One was Chad (who later died by suicide).” ~ Jennifer

Doctor suicide postvention is an intervention conducted after a doctor or medical student suicide, largely taking the form of support for bereaved colleagues and staff at a hospital, clinic, or medical school. Loss survivors may be at increased risk of suicide themselves. A proper postvention plan allows staff to heal from the loss of a peer. Edwin Shneidman, the father of modern suicidology, famously declared that suicide postvention is a direct form of prevention of future suicides.

Sometimes just knowing what doesn’t work allows us to pivot and create truly meaningful and healing experiences for loss survivors. Don’t worry about being perfect. If you approach postvention with honesty and compassion you’ll be on the right path. If you need help, I offer free books as well as suicide postvention in-person or virtually.

Resources: Excerpts above from physician loss survivors published with permission in the book, Physician Suicide Letters—Answered. * Free audiobook download here * View Do No Harm: Exposing the Hippocratic Hoax (award-winning documentary exposing the doctor suicide crisis) * Have you lost a colleague to suicide? Contact Dr. Wible for help.

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