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Study: Physicians twice as likely to die by suicide

vanderbilt university medical center
Posted at 4:44 PM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 19:36:46-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee’s suicide rate is the highest it has been in five years, and according to a study by The Physicians Foundation, these health care workers die by suicide at twice the rate of the general population.

Each year roughly 400 physicians die by suicide and hundreds more have serious thoughts of suicide. The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified those emotions.

The study says there has been an increase in physicians experiencing burnout, jumping from 40% in 2018 to now 61%.

"Some of that is understandable in the sense that it's a high stressed job," said Dr. Abhi Saxena with Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "A lot of times they are dealing with situations that are difficult, like people dying or being diagnosed with COVID."

Dr. Saxena says signs to look out for include increased irritability, lower frustration tolerance, increased drinking, over-eating, being isolative, or not feeling like themselves.

If you experience any of these symptoms, Dr. Saxena suggests you stay away from things that can be harmful like over-eating or over-drinking and make more time to do things that spark joy.

"It's difficult when you work a difficult job and already tired at home to make time out for 30 minutes of exercise or go to a spiritual activity that makes you whole but remember you are a whole person and work is just a part of who you are," Dr. Abhi said.

Hospitals like Vanderbilt do provide counseling to their hospital staff.

If you or someone you love is going through a difficult time, don't be afraid to speak up.

You can contact the National Suicide Hotline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or texting "TN" to 741-741. People will be there to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.