Preventing Suicide Amongst Doctors

Doctor suicide has been of great concern to BAPIO.

“Doctors have always had higher rates of suicide compared with the general population and with other
professional groups. The reasons for suicide among doctors — as in the general population — are often
related to un- (or under-) treated depression, bipolar disorder, or substance misuse.

However, for doctors the risk factors go beyond mental illness. As a group, doctors occupy a privileged
position in society. They bear witness to the suffering of patients who share secrets told to no one else,
not even their closest relatives. Doctors are often faced with the futility of their endeavours. Without a
safe outlet to talk about the emotional impact of their work, doctors may carry the stress of their work
beyond the consulting room, putting them at risk of depression, substance misuse, and even suicide.
Doctors have other specific risk factors, such as access to (and training in the use of) dangerous drugs,
explaining why anaesthetists have higher rates of suicide than paediatricians.

The impact of complaints and referral to the regulator can also have a major impact on doctors’ mental
health. In 2015, a newly qualified GP who had been voted ‘Trainee GP of the Year’, Dr James Halcrow,
hanged himself. The inquest heard how he feared erasure from the medical register for transgressing
the conditions set down by the General Medical Council (GMC), which were reported to dictate that he
abstain from alcohol. On 24 November 2015, Dr Wendy Potts, a GP and mother of two, killed herself. Dr
Potts suffered from bipolar disorder and kept a blog about her condition. Apparently, a patient had
complained and Dr Potts was suspended and later referred to the GMC. The coroner told the inquest: ‘It
seems to me the suspension and investigation was something of a sledgehammer being used to crack a
nut’.” Adopted from Editorial written by Dr Clare Gerada in British Journal of General Practice, April
2018 with writer’s permission.

We are now joining hand with the charity ‘Doctors in Distress. A charity committed to eradicating
stigma, change behaviours & cultures and promote the value of good leadership to reduce suicide rates
of medical doctors. . Dr Clare Gerada is the chair of this charity.
BAPIO will be happy to collaborate with any organisation working to prevent suicide amongst doctors.

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