The following was originally posted to Paragonfire.
When You Asked “How Are You?” Did you REALLY Mean It?
Such a simple question, often as overlooked as saying hello. Sadly, this question needs to be asked deeply, with the intent to listen the answer. Particularly in medicine.
I recently read a post on social media, another account of a physician suicide. A physician who had been in a busy practice for years and seemed more fatigued than usual. Patient deaths seemed to leave a deeper gash that was harder to heal. But, he kept going. He kept silent. Until the day he rendered himself permanently silenced via suicide. Another heartbreaking story that brought me to tears to the loss of a kindred soul of medicine. Yet, at the end, the true power of the post was the message that this can no longer be kept silent. We must shed light on it. Talk about it despite the social stigma, the pain, the uncomfortable conversation.
Shedding light into the deepest darkness is the only way see the path out.
Physician suicide has always been kept quiet. Out of shame. Out of fear. Out of our lack of understanding, Because rarely was it anticipated. These are events of shock. The obituaries that say “died unexpectedly” or “died suddenly” with no other details.
There is a critical need for increasing awareness and attention regarding physician wellness, burnout, engagement and suicide. This is not limited to only physicians, but as I am one, this is where my focus is.
Next time, watch your words. When you ask “How Are You?” mean it. You may save a life by asking and listening.