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Why Physicians Die by Suicide: Lessons Learned From Their Families and Others Who Cared

December 12, 2017
by Michael F. Myers, MD


Why Physicians Die by Suicide

Every day, we know doctors save lives. But you may not know that each day in the United States, a doctor dies by suicide. The common thread in nearly every one of those cases: a struggle with mental illness. While this heartbreaking epidemic may be largely preventable, the toxic stigma attached to mental health care for doctors is unrelenting. That stigma has been largely ignored – until now.

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Through Why Physicians Die by Suicide: Lessons Learned From Their Families and Others Who Cared (February 2017), Michael F. Myers, MD, a psychiatrist and specialist in physician health, unravels the mystery of why 300-400 doctors kill themselves every year. Combining his lifelong clinical experience as a “doctors” doctor with gripping anecdotes of those who have lost a physician loved one to suicide, Dr. Myers sheds light on what has become a national tragedy.

“The words of the loved ones of doctors who have taken their own lives are treasures because they capture the complexity, the inner conflict, and the irony of self-destruction and despair in our guardians of life,” says Dr. Myers. “Ultimately, they shine much needed light on the darkness and confusion of suicide.”

Using personal narrative and real-life case examples, in Why Physicians Die By Suicide, Dr. Myers guides readers through the variety of factors that contribute to physician suicide. He then makes practical, across-the-board recommendations in an effort to end the epidemic, arriving at the encouraging conclusion that everyone has a role to play in saving a doctor’s life.

“This challenge – saving the lives of physicians – requires building bridges and cooperative work – linking he expertise of trained professionals with the words of courageous grieving individuals who have poured out their hearts on these pages,” adds Dr. Myers. “We must continue to be candid and rigorous and we must keep talking about a subject that, sadly, is not going away. When that day comes, and it will, we can be quiet.”

In this moving and critically important resource for medical educators, physicians and their families, and anyone touched by physician suicide, you’ll discover:

  • The multitude of triggers that cause doctors to take their own lives – including burnout, depression, bipolar illness, drug use, and PTSD
  • The deliberating impact of the stigma related to mental health care and doctors, causing many of them to receive no treatment whatsoever
  • Why many physicians who do go for mental health care “fall through the cracks”
  • Captivating insights from those who are affected when doctors die by suicide – including bereaved loved ones, medical training directors, and patients
  • How the culture of medicine must change, providing support and treatment for doctors with mental illness
  • The important role that family members play in a doctor’s treatment, and how they should be involved in their recovery process

Michael F. Myers, MD – the “Doctors’ Doctor” – is a specialist in physician health, a lecturer, and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. Treating more than 700 doctors throughout his career, Dr. Myers has devoted the bulk of his decades-long private practice to treating physicians and their families. As the immediate past president of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (New York City Chapter), Dr. Myers has also served as a board member for both the American and Canadian Psychiatric Associations, and is currently on the Advisory Board of the Committee for Physician Health of the Medical Society of the State of New York.

Through his award-winning scholarly work, Dr. Myers examines the training of medical students and doctors, and has authored (or co-authored) seven previous books, including The Physician as Patient: A Clinical Handbook for Mental Health Professionals (with Glen O. Gabbard, MD) and Touched by Suicide: Hope and Healing After Loss (with Carla Fine). He is board certified in Psychiatry by both the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Canada and the American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology.

Learn more about Dr. Michael Myers at www.michaelfmyers.com and connect with him at @DownstateDoctor.

Why Physicians Die by Suicide is available on Amazon and Barnes & Nobel.


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