How to save a broken battered suicidal surgery resident

April 22, 2016

Hi Dr. Wible, 

I am a third-year surgery resident at a massive academic center and a struggling wife… I have had an atrocious year and have thought of suicide nearly daily. Tonight I was actually searching for “painless effective suicide methods” when Google brought me to your article and TED talk. Thank you for talking about this. I feel less alone. I am still miserable and struggling and wishing the pain could end, but your talk made me feel less ashamed and alone. Thank you. It is very weird reaching out to a complete stranger, but I wanted to thank you and realistically your talk may have saved my life… At least for tonight when I was close to ending it.  

A broken battered intermittently suicidal surgery resident

How to save a suicidal surgeon:

  1. Allow surgeons to ask for help. It’s a tough job full of trauma.
  2. Love and appreciate your surgeons. You may save your surgeon’s life.
  3. End the medical culture of hazing, bullying, and abuse. 

Letter published with permission. Please help shine a spotlight on this global crisis. Thank you.

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3 comments on “How to save a broken battered suicidal surgery resident
  1. Dr. John J. Shigo says:

    When you’re sensitive doctor it is difficult for you to discharge in your mind and emotions, the trauma associated with taking care of sick or injured patients. I can remember many nights wondering about whether the patient so I headed to the hospital or were taking care of my office to find were improving.

    With all of the changes in Medicine is a result of the affordable care act requirements, more stress is placed on family physicians and burnout and depression occurs daily in their lives as physicians.

    This is no laughing matter because it leads to suicidal ideation or removing themselves from their lifelong profession – medicine. The consequences of either are devastating – no life or no profession!

    Unfortunately, most of our colleagues are too busy or underinsured or sympathetic to our concerns. We do not have the time or the place to discuss our personal feelings about our practice, our care patients or the problems we face in our interpersonal and family relationships.

    I have survived an attempted suicide because of the presence of friends. However, they were not aware of the signs and symptoms that precede a suicide attempt. When you’re really depressed and suicidal, you can hide almost every private moment and activity because of your feelings total despair and worthlessness. Without energy, without fun in your life and without a job, and a family and friends, your life becomes meaningless. You’re left with no other way out except self-destruction.

    As a survivor, I can easily recognize the individuals who are at risk to ending their lives. Signs and symptoms are obvious if one is in contact or is observant. People must be more understanding, compassionate, concerned and respectful as this disease is genetically and environmentally caused.

    All the bullying, disrespect, long and sleepless hours of work, lack of support and understanding, results and burnout— which is abuse. It’s time for medical school deans and professors to recognize and respect their newest family members – medical students who want to learn and be taught in respect fall, comforting and enjoyable learning experience. They just want to do what their professors have taught them to do as they respect them because of their knowledge of medicine. A happy medical student is a mentally, physically and emotionally stable individual.

    The same principles apply to practicing physicians must be happy and what they are doing each day so they are not overwhelmed and burned out.

    It’s time to change the atmosphere in hospitals, medical boards, and medical society’s. Without a change in making medicine and enjoyable profession and hiding the tragic suicidal events, tragedies will continue—and more Physicians will commit suicide.

    Dr. John Shigo

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      And all of this will improve when we take a look in the mirror. If we don’t understand that we have been victims, we risk becoming the victimizers. This is a cycle of abuse.

      • Kevin M. Denny, MD MPH MA says:


        I applaud you. Curiously, in that everyone of us should be doing for ourselves, our patients and our colleagues what you are conveying to us.

        Allow me to start with a basic question. From your experience and from the literature is there any information about the role that medical sanctions play in physician suicide.

        And, yes, for me, there were enduring thoughts of shame, inadequacy, anger and ultimately suicide.

        This especially interesting to me in the case where the medical sanction are not for misconduct, sleeping with patients, malpractice, poor outcomes or character deficit. What is the effect of sanctions on MDs based upon a board’s claim of a physician’s
        deficit in practice … i.e. not meeting the boards expectation of good medical practice. Add to that, the fact that as a child psychiatrist you are being judged by a panel of physicians with no credentialing in Child Psychiatry.

        I practice in New York, a state reputed to be the most difficult in manners like this.

        The board operates in secret, with no accountability to anyone other than themselves, operating in a demeaning manner devoid of human instinct.

        I’ll be in contact with you of course. Do you know of any cases where a physician successfully sued a medical board?

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