Sept. 2014-Why do doctors commit suicide?

Ask Dr. Swiner: Why do doctors commit suicide?   Published Wednesday, September 17, 2014 by C. Nicole Swiner, Columnist

I may sound a bit dramatic, but the issue is a serious one; medical professionals are stressed.

We deal with unfortunate and, oftentimes, unrealistic demands from insurance companies, management and, most of all, patients. It’s a fact that doctors suffer from the same, if not more, amounts of depression, anxiety, and suicide than the general population.

The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention ( posted these statistics:

  • Each year in the U.S., roughly 300 to 400 physicians die by suicide.
  • Physician deaths from smoking-related illnesses decreased 40 percent to 60 percent after targeted educational campaigns to reduce smoking among physicians. Suicide rates among physicians are not decreasing, presumably because little attention has been paid to this issue.
  • Depression is a major risk factor in physician suicide. Other factors include bipolar disorder, and alcohol and substance abuse.
  • There is no evidence that work-related stressors are linked to elevated rates of suicide in physicians.
  • Medical students have rates of depression 15 percent to 30 percent higher than the general population.

Contributing to the higher suicide rate among physicians is their higher completion-to-attempt ratio, which may result from greater knowledge of lethality of drugs and easy access to means.

I occasionally need to vent my frustrations as a way to cleanse myself of stress. This was my most recent “morning vent” from my Dr. Swiner’s Medical Notes Facebook page:

“So, for the past couple of days, I’ve been plagued with patients misbehaving. Let me explain something….we, in the medical field, are in no way asking for sympathy. We have great jobs, great careers, and chose this as a living. However, don’t forget that we are people….trying to help people. It is not ok to disrespect us, or our time, or our effort. It is not ok to mistreat our staff when you break or bend the rules or when you decide to forget that there are other patients needing our help, with problems as bad or worse than your own. I’ve grown weary with this over the last couple of days, and it doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s depressing and distracts us from the joy of treating ones who do appreciate us and our time.

With that said, I thank all of my wonderful patients who do appreciate the work that we do on a daily (and nightly) basis, and the stress we carry home worrying about you and if we did things right and made you happy and better. Thank you for you. You are why we come to work every morning. I feel better now.”

Please be kind to your doctors. They do a job of love and sacrifice for you and their patients. People can be bitter, ungrateful, and unappreciative. Remember, they’re people with real feelings, too.

If you’re not happy at your current place of medical care, please do everyone a favor, and find somewhere that suits you better.

Dr. C. Nicole Swiner works at Durham Family Medicine, where she treats newborns to elderly patients. She can be found at

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