Confronting physician depression and suicide

LIVE Twitter Chat: Monday, June 3, 8 p.m. ET


Please join us Monday, June 3, at 8:00 p.m. ET as we discuss depression in physicians and the resulting tragedies, as well as how to help physicians receive the treatment they need to prevent suicide.

Our special guests include physicians with expertise on the triggers of physician depression and solutions for fighting this epidemic, Sarah Candler, MD, (@sarahgcandler) and Elisabeth Poorman, MD, (@DrPoorman). We hope you will participate in our Twitter chat on June 3 at 8 p.m. ET. #MDedgeChats

Physicians have higher rates of depression and suicide, compared with the general population, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Suicide rates for male physicians are 1.41 times higher than in the general population and, for female physicians, 2.27 times greater.

“But these numbers come from only those deaths that are reported publicly,” Dr. Poorman wrote in an article that was published by WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station. In fact, as Dr. Poorman was writing this story, she learned of five separate deaths that were widely known to be suicides, but never publicly identified as such, she said.

One possible explanation for physicians’ higher likelihood of becoming depressed or dying by suicide, compared with other professionals, is their hesitance to receive mental health treatment, experts have suggested. Psychiatrist Michael F. Myers, MD, found anecdotal evidence of this tendency when he interviewed the loved ones, friends, and colleagues of physicians who took their own lives.

In this chat we will discuss this topic and other possible reasons for the high rate of depression and suicide among physicians.

Topics of conversation

Question 1: What are the causes of physician depression and suicide in training and practice?

Question 2: How can we end stigma against seeking mental health treatment among physicians?

Question 3: How can we prevent depression and suicide among medical students and physicians?

Question 4: Which institutions or programs are exemplars in providing resources to improve mental health?

Question 5: What organizational and political changes are likely to reduce physician suicides?


1. Getting Back to Medicine as a Community

2. What stops physicians from getting mental health care?

3. Risk considerations for suicidal physicians

4. Two more and counting: Suicide in medical trainees

5. How to talk with a struggling physician colleague

6. Healthcare industry takes on high physician suicide rates, mental health stigma

7. The Curbsiders episode #129 Depression and Suicide: Occupational Hazards of Practicing Medicine

8. Creating Joy in Medicine in St. Paul, MN: A Case Study

9. Stress and rigorous work schedules push a doctor to commit suicide every day in the US: 'We need them, but they need us'

About Dr. Poorman

Dr. Elisabeth Poorman, University of Washington, Seattle

Dr. Elisabeth Poorman

Dr. Poorman (@DrPoorman) is a primary care physician at the University of Washington in Seattle, a freelance journalist covering issues related to medicine, and a frequent speaker on the causes of and solutions to mental illness among providers.

Her writing has been featured in Self, The Guardian. Medpage Today’s KevinMD.com, and other publications. She produces the blog: https://www.drpoorman.org/what-we-do.

About Dr. Candler

Dr. Sarah Candler, a primary care physician in Houston

Dr. Sarah Candler

Dr. Candler (@sarahgcandler) is a primary care physician in Houston. She is coeditor of the Annals Fresh Look blog, and a member of Internal Medicine News’ Editorial Advisory Board.

She is currently consulting for a tech firm and will later be joining Iora Health to start a Medicare Advantage clinic.

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