A physician just wrote me:
“I know people try to prevent suicide at all costs, but on the flip side if someone is just suffering so much everyday, couldn’t it be considered the lesser of two evils? Everyone says it’s such a selfish act, but maybe the person needs to be selfish to get out of pain. How long is a person supposed to suffer? What type of life is it to sit around and suffer?”
I’ve been running a doctor suicide helpline for more than a decade and have spent thousands of hours speaking to suicidal doctors. Here’s my advice to you:
1) Ask yourself if you are terminally ill. Suicide is a legal option for terminal illness. I live in Oregon, the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. I’ve helped my terminally ill patients with physical illness and less than 6 months to live die by suicide. Is your illness truly terminal? Mental illness is rampant and poorly treated in our society. Most are suffering due to lack of treatment.
2) Explore ALL your options. Even most doctors who seek help receive only conventional drugs. Have you been offered curated peer support, spiritual therapies, or psychedelic ceremonies? Have you tried ALL of them with consistency? Don’t dabble haphazardly on your own. Find an expert guide and/or facilitated program for physicians that offers a safe, structured environment for your healing.
3) Avoid the term “treatment-resistant depression.” When allopathic interventions fail that does not mean your illness is resistant to complementary therapies. Integrative psychiatrists know that rewiring our neural networks is possible. Are you working with the right psychiatrist? Some offer a holistic and “sacred” approach to ECT and EMDR. Most physician-patients are unaware of all their options—and have no idea how to find reputable and safe non-standard therapies. One doctor shares:
“The Sacramental use of psilocybin or other entheogens was the most effective approach for me. Ceremonial use of these medicines brings in the wisdom of age-old traditions that use these Medicines to help us reconnect to ourselves, not as a solution for any particular malady but as a way to return to balance and in turn, finding deeper understanding, improvement or resolution of our depression.”
4) Use curated peer support as your first-line treatment. I suggest highly targeted peer support as the foundation of any suicide prevention plan. Isolation and loneliness is immediately ameliorated in a properly facilitated group with members who have similar emotional wounds. I’ve been leading physician peer support groups for years. Share your story. Don’t suppress your tears. Most of the time, what is needed is human interaction. One surgeon reported: “Spending two hours with you all was more helpful than any therapist I’ve seen, anything they did on inpatient psych, any help I’ve gotten yet.”
5) Consider suicide a failure of community. When suffering is individually pathologized, the person is blamed for their condition. When we recognize that the “illness” is a normal reaction to an abnormal or traumatic situation, the wisdom of the individual’s psychological response finally makes sense. Recognizing societal influences and community/family dysfunction that lead to suicidal thinking is crucial. Evaluate your ACES (Adverse Childhood Events) to help you discover your family-of origin-core wound. Reference: Did your wounded child choose your career?
6) Identify your core wound. Most suicides are a culmination of many factors poorly managed over years. Discovering the origin story or genesis of your core wound will allow you to successfully address your primary issue (versus just dealing with the sequelae of your untreated core wound). If you feel detached from your inner core, find a hobby that brings you pleasure as a way to find yourself again. Sometimes our core wound is grief for the a loss of self or self image.
7) Know that suicide is an occupational hazard of your profession. Physicians are dying by suicide triple the rate of their patients. Why? We’re groomed in an atmosphere of self-betrayal and self-abuse. Hazardous working conditions lead to destruction of our own health and personal relationships with family. Physicians are placed on a pedestal until we can no longer perform—then we are vilified. We are not allowed to be human and are disconnected from our feelings, emotions, and spiritual core. Reference: Physician Betrayal: How Our Heroes Become Villains.
8) Realize that you are a spiritual being living a finite human experience. As physicians we are cut off from our humanity and untethered from our souls. Shells of our former selves just going through the motions with no passion or zest for life—a direct result of the methodical dehumanization of medical education and practice. I’ve interviewed many physician survivors of suicide attempts. All are grateful they are alive and regret their desperate decision. Many now feel a renewed sense of spiritual connection and purpose.
9) Believe your condition is curable. When offered holistic interventions and removed from hazardous working conditions, most all physicians heal quickly. Doctors have curable mental health conditions that often began in childhood and were exacerbated by medical training and practice. One wise physician (who lost her own physician husband to suicide) shares:
“I consider no disease terminal until you think so—and self motivation is the key what you want to do with your life. If you think you will get better—you will. Spirituality says the same. You become what you believe you want to be.”
10) Your suicide is a terrible option for a curable condition.
Need to talk? Contact Dr. Wible.