In the immediate aftermath of suicide, feelings run high, as they should. But rather than wait it out – and fearing a return to “business as usual” – let me make only two suggestions:
2. In psychiatry, we need to redouble our efforts in fighting the stigma attached to psychiatric illness in trainees. It is unconscionable that medical students and residents are dying of treatable disorders (I’ve never heard of a doctor dying of cancer who didn’t go to an oncologist at least once), yet too many are not availing themselves of services we provide – even when they’re free of charge or covered by insurance. And are we certain that, when they knock on our doors, we are providing them with state-of-the-art care? Is it possible that unrecognized internal stigma and shame deep within us might make us hesitant to help our trainees in their hour of need? Or cut corners? Or not get a second opinion? Very few psychiatrists on faculty of our medical schools divulge their personal experiences of depression, posttraumatic stress disorders, substance use disorders, and more (with the exception of being in therapy during residency, which is normative and isn’t stigmatized). Coming out is leveling, humane, and respectful – and it shrinks the power differential in the teaching dyad. It might even save a life.
Dr. Myers is a professor of clinical psychiatry at State University of New York, Brooklyn, and the author of “Why Physicians Die by Suicide: Lessons Learned From Their Families and Others Who Cared.”