Mental Illness, Job Stress Both Factors in Physician Suicides

Docs more likely to have antipsychotics, barbiturates, not antidepressants on toxicology testing

FRIDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- The presence of mental illness or job problems may make physicians more vulnerable to suicide than non-physicians, according to a study published online Nov. 5 in General Hospital Psychiatry.

Katherine J. Gold, M.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues used data from the United States National Violent Death Reporting System to examine demographics, mental health variables, recent stressors, and suicide methods for 203 physicians from among 31,636 suicide victims in 17 states.

The researchers found that having a known mental health disorder or a job problem which contributed to the suicide was significantly more likely among physicians. Antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates, but not antidepressants, were significantly more likely to be present on toxicology testing in physicians versus non-physicians.

"There are multiple barriers to appropriate help-seeking, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health problems among physicians due to stigma and possibly lack of social recognition of the problem," the authors write. "Physician knowledge of pharmaceuticals, dosing, and lethality as well as greater access to medications with lethal potential presents a further challenge in designing an effective plan to reduce physician suicide."

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