Douglas A. Sargent, Viggo W. Jensen, Thomas A. Petty, and Herbert Raskin
A former medical school classmate had killed herself. The same day I learned of her death, I also had a frustrating discussion with an insurance man who maintained that doctors would not buy adequate coverage for mental disorders because of the cost. I reasoned that it is not sensible to offer skimpy policies to doctors who both need and could afford better. He was adamant. "They won't sell," he said.
These events reminded me of other doctors I had known who had killed themselves. One, a friend, came to mind. For several years, rumors had been circulating about this friend's failing stability. Suicide seemed likely. Other psychiatrists had heard these reports and we discussed what might be done to help him, but we came to no satisfactory conclusion. Within a year, our failing friend had killed himself.
Why does the medical profession not do a better job of preventing suicide among its members than it does? This question prompted the following exploration (D.A.S.).
Suicide accounts for a remarkable number of deaths among physicians.1,2 Doctors kill themselves at a rate equivalent to one medical school class each year. The tip of this statistical iceberg is visible almost every week in the obituary pages of JAMA.
Individual and group psychodynamics involving the doctor's professional and personal life make the recognition and effective treatment of potential suicide difficult. Furthermore, organized