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Job stress and mental health problems contribute to higher rates of physician suicide
Date:11/12/2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich. 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 mental health problems 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.

Major depression 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 obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

The study found that physicians who committed suicide were much more likely to have potentially lethal prescription medications 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:

  • There was a difference in methods for suicide. Firearms were the No. 1 method for both groups. The No. 2 method for physicians was an overdose, likely related to the physicians' knowledge of lethal drug dosing and prescribing ability.
  • On-the-job stress could also be a bigger suicide risk factor for physicians, according to the study. A physician who commits suicide is far less likely to have had a recent death of a friend or family member
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Contact: Beata Mostafavi
bmostafa@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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