Job stress and mental health problems contribute to higher rates of physician suicide

November 12th, 2012 in Psychology & Psychiatry /
Job stress and mental health problems contribute to higher rates of physician suicide

Doctors who commit suicide appear to be under-treated for mental health problems, despite their seemingly good access to health care, a new University of Michigan study shows.

Although more physicians than non-physicians in the study had known prior to suicide, this didn't translate into a higher rate of antidepressant use, according to the study, which appears in General Hospital Psychiatry and provides a deeper look at why physicians may have a higher-than-average suicide rate.

is a known risk factor for suicide, particularly for female physicians.

Stigma, lack of confidentiality, and desire to self-treat may explain why physicians don't seek formal treatment for mental health problems, says lead author Katherine J. Gold, M.D., M.S.W., M.S., assistant professor of family medicine and of at the University of Michigan Medical School.

The study found that physicians who committed suicide were much more likely to have potentially lethal in their system – but not medication prescribed for depression.

"Even though this population presumably has very good access to health care, it doesn't appear that they're getting adequate treatment," Gold says. "I think stigma about mental health is a huge part of the story. There is a belief that physicians should be able to avoid depression or just 'get over it' by themselves."

Other findings:

The U-M study follows up work from another U-M Family Medicine study that addressed for stress and burnout among medical students.

"This paints a more detailed picture of external events and risk factors in a physician's life before a suicide, rather than just looking at a death certificate," Gold says.

"We've seen a number of studies now that show a high rate of anxiety, depression and burnout among both medical students and physicians but we haven't done very much to develop programs to reduce or treat these risk factors and to increase mental health-seeking among physicians," Gold adds.

"There needs to be greater effort to address the , under-diagnosis and treatment of depression among and understand how we can reduce the stress related to work. We need to make treatment more available, safe and confidential."

More information: "Details on suicide among U.S. physicians: data from the National Violent Death Reporting System," General Hospital Psychiatry (2012), dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2012.08.005

Provided by University of Michigan Health System

"Job stress and mental health problems contribute to higher rates of physician suicide." November 12th, 2012. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-11-job-stress-mental-health-problems.html