Stop Physician Suicide - Bourdain highlights the need for prevention

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

stop-physician-suicide-bourdain-reach-out-to-a-colleague-dike-drummondPhysician suicide is the most extreme complication of physician  burnout, yet suicides often fly under the radar

Physician suicides are taboo subjects, quickly swept under the rug and subconsciously banned from civilized conversation ... until ... someone popular and famous and well-loved dies in a highly visible suicide. This week it was Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential and host of his Parts Unknown TV series. 

While the world mourns Bourdain, the natural tendency is for all of us to remember someone we lost to suicide in our own lives. For doctors, the person we remember is often a colleague. The whole issue of doctor, resident and medical student suicide gets lost in the larger conversation about the tidal wave of physician burnout. The sad truth is that physician suicide is a known complication of physician burnout and ... 

Whether you are male or female, choosing to become a doctor immediately doubles your suicide rate. 

As the world mourns the unexpected loss of Bourdain, my heart mourns for those doctors, doctors in training, nurses, EMT's and other healthcare workers who also took their lives ... the people whom only you and I remember.

Four Reminders and Action Steps to Prevent Physician Suicide in wake of this week of tragedy:

1) Charles Bukowski's poem on suicide and how it feels to be left behind

2) A printable flash card of the Columbia Lighthouse Project suicide prevention questions

3) Our video training on how to reach out to a colleague in distress

4) Our Quadruple Aim Blueprint Organizational Burnout Prevention Strategy - one of the four components is a physician-specific crisis hotline. 


1) Cause and effect, by Charles Bukowski

Cause and effect 

the best often die by their own hand
just to get away,
and those left behind
can never quite understand
why anybody
would ever want  to
get away

~ Charles Bukowski


2) Columbia Lighthouse Project on suicide prevention - Screening Questions Flashcard

Here is a downloadable copy of the flashcard of the five screening questions for EMT's. Just as useful for us when reaching out to physician colleagues. 

Download and print a copy for your own use. Incorporate these questions into your outreach to a colleague (see video below) when you feel it is appropriate.


3) Video Training on how to reach out to a colleague in need

If you are concerned about a colleague being burned out or at risk for suicide, here is a simple way to reach out and what to expect when they respond. Don't hesitate. If you are concerned, reach how. You could be saving their life. Here is a proven way to start the conversation.



4) Quadruple Aim Blueprint Organizational Burnout Prevention Strategy

Here in the days when the majority of physicians are employees, prevention of physician burnout and physician suicide is now an organizational responsibility. Yet most organizations have not deployed an organizational burnout prevention strategy for the often stated reason that they don't know where to begin. 

The Quadruple Aim Blueprint Strategy is a proven process to launch your system-wide physician burnout and suicide prevention program.

One of the core components of this "Coal Mine Strategy" to prevent physician burnout and suicide system-wide, is a physician-specific 24 hour crisis hotline and physician EAP support program. 

Download the full Blueprint Strategy Here


Tags: stop physician burnout, physician suicide