Sunday, December 16, 2018

Physician Suicide

Someone I know recently took his own life. A physician at my medical center, a father, a son, a brother. Someone who should be at the peak of his life. Those who knew him and worked with him till the very end say that he hid it well. No one knew. Right up to the point when he said he wasn't feeling well and wanted to go home early. To do the deed.
The rational side of the brain can never justify such an act. Why would an organism, a human being at that, while physically health, would willingly and intentionally end its life, serving no purpose, no greater good, at that. After all, isn't life programmed to endure, to find  a way to survive? Isn't self preservation a natural instinct?
The emotional side of the brain though has, well, mixed emotions. For one, in a messed up way, though I'd never agree to this path, you can perhaps relate to what might be going on in his mind before the deed. It's easy to understand how in the hubbub of work, and the burn out and frustrations we go through, how one can lose one can forget the meaning of life. To not see joy or beauty or kindness anymore. To not find a reason to go on, and to conclude that ending it all is the best way out.
Those of us fortunate or blessed enough to have our meanings to life- family, loved ones, friends, some other passion, these keep us grounded and gives us perspective. However, for the few without these lifelines, you can almost understand why it's easy to give in to those temptations.
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Probably another reason why the suicide rate amongst doctors is high. Depending on your specialty, you may have the means, and you certainly have the know-how about the body enough to cease its function.
It's always a tragedy when this happens. And I'm biased of course- but it's a greater pity when it's a member of the fraternity. 
Someone once told me, "Doctors save lives, at the expense of their own..."
It's a difficult topic to discuss, and because there are professional consequences to be known to have psychosocial issues, doctors are much less likely to reach out for help. Yes, there are helplines and counsellors- but I personally know of some people who despite severe depression refused to seek professional help.
Yes, it's a real issue. A stigma that no one wants to talk about or acknowledge- but depression and (physician) suicides are real. As difficult as it might be, we need to be more open about these things an have more discussion. And not judge.😥
And so, if you have problems, reach out. And if you think someone is struggling, it never hurts to ask.