Doctor suicide is a public health crisis that claims the lives of an estimated 400 US doctors annually. Given each doctor cares for upwards of 2000 – 3000 active patients, more than one million Americans risk losing their doctors to suicide each year. Responding with compassion and honesty in the aftermath of a physician suicide is essential to helping loss survivors—colleagues, patients, and families—heal from the loss. In the absence of emotional support and open communication, loss survivors may experience lifelong impacts from the trauma that may increase their own suicide risk. To ameliorate these adverse effects, medical institutions must have a postvention plan in place that can be utilized in a timely manner.
After a recent suicide of an emergency physician in Washington State, I led 6 hours of crisis debriefing for the emergency staff and all doctors and staff of the hospital. Need help in the aftermath of a suicide? Please contact Dr. Wible for assistance in facilitating sessions and her manual on how medical institutions should respond to a doctor suicide to best help loss survivors heal.