Physicians have the highest suicide rate of any professionals, at 40 suicides per every 100,000 physicians, according to a March 15 Medscape report.
While that statistic has been debated in the industry, the Missouri State Medical Association estimates that one physician dies by suicide every day, and the Physicians Foundation says 55 percent of physicians know a physician who has considered, attempted or died by suicide.
There is a paper from 150 years ago that also points to high physician suicide rates, showing that the problem has been ongoing, according to Rajnish Jaiswal, MD, associate chief of emergency medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals Metropolitan Hospital and assistant professor of emergency medicine at New York Medical College in New York City.
Brad Fern, coach and psychotherapist at Fern Executive and Physician Consulting in Minneapolis, describes a physician "pressure cooker" effect, where problems in the healthcare system combined with personal difficulties slowly compound until physicians cannot take it.
"Some people think there's a reason for suicide, but often, there's a spectrum of reasons," Mr. Fern told Medscape.
While there have been steps made in the industry to address physician burnout, the experts who spoke with Medscape said part of the problem may be the demanding, rigid system in which physicians train and practice, where they feel their employers may not have their best interests at heart.
"I think the biggest thing that the system has to do is earn back the trust of the physician," Dr. Jaiswal told Medscape.