Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Spring 2020 - 15

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Physicians seem to be particularly at risk; of all occupations,
medical practitioners are the most likely to kill themselves.
Compare the suicide risk of the general population (12.3 per
100,000) with physicians. The physician suicide rate is almost
twice that of the general population (28-40 per 100,00). Think
about that: every year 300-400 physicians take their own lives, or
in other words, the equivalent of two to three medical school classes
lost each year; or, one physician death every day. Although female
physicians attempt suicide far less often than females in the general
population, because they have the skill and the means, their actual
completion rate exceeds that of both the general population AND
that of male physicians. The suicide completion ratio for male
physicians is 1.41, while for females it is 2.27, with 1.0 being the
reference rate for the general population.
But one must ask, with our post-modern enlightened
understanding of the world, why is the incidence of suicide so
alarmingly on the ascent? The stigma of suicide has been with us
since recorded history. In ancient Athens, a person who killed
themselves without state approval was denied the honor of a normal
burial, and was placed alone in a grave outside the city without a
headstone. In 1670 France, Louis XIV declared that a person who
had committed suicide should be drawn through the streets face
down, and then hung or thrown on a garbage heap and his property
confiscated. During the Enlightenment, a more modern perspective
began to dawn, with a shift in public opinion such that by the late
19th century, there was the recognition that suicide was caused
by mental illness rather than sin. Nevertheless, there continues
to be a stigma or negative connotation about suicide that persists
to the present. This stigma prevents persons at risk from reaching
out for help, and that is particularly true for physicians, who fear
imposition of sanctions on their medical license by state Boards of
Medicine.
There is no one path to suicide. Suicide is caused by the
convergence of multiple risk factors that predispose one to the
act of self-harm. Underlying all suicide is mental illness. Mental
continued on next page

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Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Spring 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Spring 2020

Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Spring 2020 - 1
Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Spring 2020 - 2
Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Spring 2020 - 3
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https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyMedicalSociety/BerksCountyMedicalSociety_MedicalRecord_Winter2021
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