National Physician Suicide Awareness Day underscores urgent need to support physician wellness

National Physician Suicide Awareness Day (NPSA)—on Sept. 17—is a sobering reminder for physicians and others to ensure that we advocate for programs and initiatives to support physician health and wellness. Supporting physician wellness and reducing physician burnout are key elements of the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians.

Physicians have higher rates of death by suicide than the general population, and medical residents and students also experience depression at rates greater than the general population, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“AMA advocacy is focused on eliminating barriers that prevent physicians and medical students from seeking care for their own mental health,” said AMA President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH. “National Physician Suicide Awareness Day is an important reminder of the tragedies in our profession—it is time, however, for licensing boards, health systems and credentialing organizations to take additional actions to ensure that we can support our physicians’ health and wellness and help prevent our colleagues from dying by suicide.”

Part of the AMA’s advocacy to support physician wellness has been direct engagement with state medical boards, hospitals and health systems to remove stigmatizing questions on applications related to mental health and substance use disorders. The AMA has worked with several dozen medical boards, hospitals and health systems alongside the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation (PDF) and the Federation of State Medical Boards to urge boards and others to review, revise and/or remove all questions that may deter physicians from seeking treatment for mental illness or substance use disorder. In addition, the AMA has worked closely with the Medical Society of Virginia and Virginia Healthcare and Hospital Association to challenge all Virginia hospitals to ensure their credentialing applications are consistent with recommendations from the AMA, Federation of State Medical Boards and Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation…

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