Six actions to inspire individuals and health organizations to prevent physicians dying by a preventable suicide death on National Physician Suicide Awareness Day (#NPSADay).
In recognition of National Physician Suicide Awareness Day (September 17, 2021), The Physicians Foundation, Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation and #FirstRespondersFirst have come together to equip physicians, their loved ones, their colleagues, health organizations and others to help prevent physician suicide through Vital Signs: The Campaign to Prevent Physician Suicide. Vital Signs seeks to make National Physician Suicide Awareness Day a reminder and call to action that it is time to talk – and to act – so physicians’ struggles do not become mental health emergencies.
“Physicians have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession and over half of all physicians know of a physician who has considered, attempted or died by suicide,” said Gary Price, M.D., president of The Physicians Foundation. “It is vital that we make a conscious and forward effort to break down stigma and encourage physicians to talk about their mental health and seek support when they need it, especially in the wake of the most significant health event in recent history.”
Vital Signs curates six actions any individual or health organization can take to help physicians in distress seek mental health care, ultimately helping prevent suicide:
- Learn the Vital Signs
- Share suicide prevention resources
- Prepare before a moment of crisis
- Check in with a physician
- Understand structural barriers
- Create a culture of wellbeing
To date, 22 health organizations have joined in to signify their support in creating a culture of wellbeing that prioritizes reducing burnout, safeguarding job satisfaction and viewing seeking mental health services as a sign of strength.
“Our sister, Dr. Lorna Breen, died by suicide on April 26, 2020. It wasn’t until after she died that we learned she had one significant risk factor—she was a physician,” said Jennifer Feist and Corey Feist, co-founders of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation. “If this could happen to Lorna, this could happen to any physician, which is why we are honored to launch this new campaign and help any individual or organization have evidenced-based resources to prevent physician suicide.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, over 6 in 10 physicians (61%) reported they experienced feelings of burnout. When left untreated, burnout can cause more cases of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use, and lead to suicidal thoughts for physicians, directly impacting physician suicide rates.
“While physician suicide was a crisis long before COVID-19, the demands of the pandemic have created a sense of urgency to better support physicians’ mental health and wellbeing,” said Shekhar Saxena, professor of the Practice of Global Mental Health, Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and mental health subject matter expert for #FirstRespondersFirst. “This campaign’s tools and resources can help physicians build their resilience and promote positive mental health while also supporting health organizations in evidence-based practices to prioritize their physician workforce’s wellbeing.”
To raise awareness on physician suicide and promote resources to help prevent physician suicide on #NPSADay, explore www.NPSADay.org/toolkit.
To become a supporting organization on #NPSADay and beyond, visit www.npsaday.org/become-supporting-organization.
The campaign is intended for awareness-building and informational purposes only. If you need further guidance or are in a crisis, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for free 24/7 support.
About The Physicians Foundation
The Physicians Foundation is a nonprofit seeking to advance the work of practicing physicians and help them facilitate the delivery of high-quality health care to patients. As the U.S. health care continues to evolve, The Physicians Foundation is steadfast in strengthening the physician-patient relationship, supporting medical practices’ sustainability and helping physicians navigate the changing health care system. The Physicians Foundation pursues its mission through research, education and innovative grant making that improves physician wellbeing, strengthens physician leadership, addresses social determinants of health and lifts physician perspectives. For more information, visit www.physiciansfoundation.org.
About the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation
The Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded by the family of Dr. Lorna Breen. The mission of the Foundation is to reduce burnout of health care professionals and safeguard their well-being and job satisfaction. Our vision is that obtaining mental health support services is universally viewed as a strength and job requisite for health care professionals. The Foundation has three main tactics to achieve long-term change:
- Advise the health care industry on well-being initiatives that provide holistic mental health supports.
- Build awareness on mental health prevalence to reduce the stigma; and
- Fund research and programs that seek to reduce health care professional burnout and improve their well-being.
#FirstRespondersFirst, an initiative of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Thrive Global, and the CAA Foundation, takes a whole human approach to addressing the needs of frontline healthcare workers in order to support their ability to serve on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. #FirstRespondersFirst’s fundraising call to action helps provide essential supplies, protective equipment, accommodations, child care, food, and critical mental health support and resources to this demographically and socially diverse workforce, ranging from minimum-wage hourly workers in home-care settings to social workers, nurses, physicians, and beyond. #FirstRespondersFirst is a fund of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that meets all 20 Better Business Bureau charity standards and carries the GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency.