The American Medical Women’s Association advocates to bring under-addressed issues to the forefront of the national agenda. Join our initiatives now.
Physician Suicide Prevention
“Medice, cura te ipsum — Physician, Heal Thyself”
Physician suicide prevention is a priority of the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), particularly in light of the sobering statistics that women physicians have higher rates of burnout compared to men1 and higher rates of suicide compared to the general female population.2
The suicide rate among male physicians is 1.41 times higher than the general male population. And among female physicians, the relative risk is even more pronounced — 2.27 times greater than the general female population.2
National Physician Suicide Awareness Day Activities – September 17
AMWA is a participant of National Physician Suicide Awareness (NPSA) Day, an initiative founded by the Council of Residency Directors (CORD) in Emergency Medicine. Learn more about NPSA Day in this 9 minute podcast.
To raise awareness on September 17, AMWA hosts an annual Twitter #Light4Docs campaign to encourage physicians, students, and supporters worldwide to light candles that will help to raise awareness of physician suicide. In 2019, AMWA launched a Shining a Light campaign to highlight the work of women physicians in this area. This year’s Shining a Light campaign highlights the work of two organizations, the Physician Support Line and the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation.
Physician Support Line
The Physician Support Line (PSL) was founded by Dr. Mona Masood and a group of volunteer psychiatrists during the COVID-19 pandemic as a free national support line for front-line physicians. The network of PSL has grown to include 600+ volunteer psychiatrists. PSL offers “free and confidential peer support to American physicians and medical students by creating a safe space to discuss immediate life stressors.” Learn more.
National Suicide Prevention Line Update!
Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation
Dr. Lorna Breen was an ER physician in New York City who died by suicide on April 26, 2020. Working around the clock during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, she cared for an “overwhelming, relentless number of incredibly sick patients…with limited PPE, insufficient supplies, not enough oxygen, not enough beds, not enough help.” She became “overworked and despondent” yet was afraid to seek help for herself, for fear of losing her medical license. The Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation was established by her family “to reduce burnout of health care professionals and safeguard their well-being and job satisfaction.” Learn more.
All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. — St. Francis of Assisi
One of the barriers to fully addressing physician suicide is the reluctance to talk openly about the problem. By shining a light on this issue, we hope to raise awareness, promote discussion, and reduce stigma. In honor of National Physician Suicide Awareness Day, light a candle:
- In memory of a loved one or colleague,
- In support of someone who is struggling or overcame their struggle
- As a beacon of hope for someone who needs light in the darkness
- To recognize that there is a light at the end of what can seem like an endless tunnel and that there is life-and success- on the other side
- To honor those who survived the struggle and are trying to effect change
- Take a photograph lighting a candle or a lighted candle
- Share it on twitter using #Light4Docs
- Include a message, remembrance, or word of hope
- Tag your local news organization for greater visibility
We also encourage groups to come together either on September 17 or earlier to discuss issues surrounding physician mental health and suicide. Post the photos on September 17 with information about your event and group.
Our goal is to have beacons of light across the country that will shine through the darkness of physician suicide.
2020 Shine A Spotlight Campaign
2019 Shine A Spotlight Campaign
AMWA recognizes the work of women physician leaders in the area of physician suicide prevention.
Tune in to the all-day Facebook live event hosted by the American Association of Suicidology featuring many physician speakers, including AMWA Past President, Dr. Kim Templeton at 9 am.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Physician Support Line
Training Program Resources:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Medical Schools
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Residency/Fellowship Programs
- Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Resources
- National Academy of Medicine Breaking the Culture of Silence on Physician Suicide
- American Medical Association Preventing Physician Distress and Suicide
- Why Physicians Die by Suicide by Dr. Michael Myers
- Unspoken: Doctor Depression and Suicide (20 min)
- Suicide, The Ripple Effect (93 minutes)
- The S Word (93 minutes) – view the trailer
2 Schernhammer, E. S., & Colditz, G. A. (2004). Suicide Rates Among Physicians: A Quantitative and Gender Assessment (Meta-Analysis). American Journal of Psychiatry AJP, 161(12), 2295-2302.Back to AMWA Initiatives