World Suicide Prevention Day - 10th September 2020


For a few years now, I have run a support group which no one would chose to belong it. A group which you would want to avoid at all costs. It is for those who have been bereaved following the death of a doctor through suicide or sudden accidental death. The group members did meet every two months, and no, during COVID meet remotely via zoom. Coming from across England, ranging in age from early twenties to their mid-70s, there are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives and husbands. Other than all having been doctors, the dead differ in age, gender, marital status, years since qualification, specialty, mode of suicide and whether they did or did not write a suicide letter. Some had an underlying mental illness, many did not. A few seemed to have decided to kill themselves as an impulsive act, others appear to have made meticulous plans and others had even carried out a dress rehearsal, stopping short of the final act. The bereaved experience an overwhelming sense of surprise and shock that their loved ones, whom they thought they knew so well, could have killed themselves. This struggle for understanding continues for years. Their grief compounded by guilt that they could have done more to stop their deaths.

Suicide is a rare event and as such trying to make comparisons between different occupational groups, age, gender or other factors is difficult except over long periods of time or large populations. But we do know that despite a host of protective factors, doctors (especially so female doctors) have high rates of suicide compared to other professional groups and an aged matched population[i],[ii]

On 10th September is National Suicide Prevention Day – when we can reflect on those who have died in this manner, but importantly how to prevent others killing themselves. I am a firm believer in the power of talk and that by coming together, talking about the impact of our work in safe, contained and compassionate spaces will go some way in preventing those who are struggling from taking this path. This is why I am now leading the charity, Doctors in Distress to help fund reflective spaces for all doctors where they can seek support from each other and to raise awareness of doctors well being and importantly to prevent further needless loss of life.

[i] Results and implications of the AMA-APA Physician Mortality Project. Stage II. Council on Scientific Affairs. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. 1987;257(21):2949-2953.

[ii] Suicide among U.S. women physicians, 1967-1972. American Journal of Psychiatry. 1979;136(5):694-696.

Dates for the diary

Webinar - Medics and mental Illness, Wednesday 9th September 2020, 6:00 – 7:00pm

International Awareness Day – World Suicide Prevention Day, Thursday 10th September 2020

Webinar - Let’s talk about suicide, Thursday 10th September 2020, 4:00pm – 5:00pm

Webinar – Looking after your professional health Part 2 – further lessons in self-care, Tuesday 15th September 2020, 5:00pm – 5:30pm

International Awareness Day – National Physician Suicide Awareness Day, Thursday 17th September 2020

Bereavement Group – Friday 2nd October 2020, 11.15am -12.45pm

Book Launch – Beneath the White Coat. Doctors, their minds and mental illness,  Friday 8th October 2020   - All proceeds from first year to go to the charity Doctors in Distress.