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Between 300 to 400 doctors commit suicide in the United States every year

Doctor suicides
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(NaturalNews) According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 300 to 400 doctors kill themselves annually in the United States. Suicide rates among male doctors are 70 percent higher when compared to males in other professions, while suicide rates among female doctors are a whopping 250 to 400 percent higher when compared to females in other professions.(1) The suicide rate among doctors is so high in the West, in fact, that "physician" earned the number 2 spot on Business Insider's list of the 19 jobs in which you're most likely to kill yourself.(2)

What could be causing this epidemic of suicides among a people who, according to the perception of society, have reached the top of the game? Could it be the dawning realization that they're a cog in an amoral machine that deliberately keeps patients sick to continue earning profits? Well, not quite. The reasons are a little more mundane -- but they still paint a picture of a vocation which, far from being glamorous and rewarding, is actually pretty miserable and depressing for the majority of its practitioners.

Want to enjoy a fulfilling life? Don't become a doctor

Though divorce and other external factors do account for a small number of doctor suicides, most of them are the result of work-related issues. Firstly, there are the excessively long working hours. "While most practicing physicians are not working anywhere near the 80+ hours per week required by certain residency programs," claims MedFriends.org, "many specialties are well into 60 hours per week and some even approach 70 hours per week on average."(3)

Aside from taking their toll on doctors' personal lives, these long hours often lead to serious mistakes that can affect their mental health. Indeed, an estimated 98,000 patients, including babies and children, die every year from mistakes made by doctors.(4) Moreover, the Institute of Medicine found that 7,000 people die annually due to the sloppy handwriting of doctors.(5)

Realizing that people are dead because of personal errors is bad enough, but the problem gets worse: mental illness is a stigma in a profession that prides itself on stoicism. This means that many doctors suffer in silence and avoid speaking about their problems to the only people who truly understand them: other doctors. "[Depression is] not a safe topic to be as open about in that profession because you're responsible for the well-being of others," says Dr. Glenn Siegel, who runs a program in Chicago that treats doctors with drug abuse and depression. "If you're admitting something like that, you're saying maybe you're not fit to do your job."(6)

Many doctors want out

Given the excessive working hours and unpleasant working environment, it's unsurprising that many doctors either crack and commit suicide, or want to leave the profession. Programs that cater to the latter are a growing breed. For example, part-time business training programs for doctors are flourishing.(7) Moreover, a website called the Drop Out Club, which finds doctors jobs at hedge funds and venture capital firms, also has a robust following.

Finally, there are the doctors who choose the old-fashioned route: word of mouth. According to a survey provided by The Doctor's Company, 9 out of 10 doctors in America are actively discouraging others from entering the medical profession. "The physician sentiments expressed in the [survey] are deeply concerning and disheartening," said Dr. Donald J. Palmisano, former president of the American Medical Association. "[W]e may be facing a shift from a 'calling,' which has been the hallmark for generations among physicians, that could threaten the next generation of health care professionals."(8)

Sources for this article include:

(1) www.afsp.org

(2) http://www.businessinsider.com

(3) http://www.medfriends.org/specialty_hours_worked.htm

(4) http://news.health.com

(5) http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1578074,00.html

(6) http://www.nbcnews.com

(7) http://www.bostonglobe.com

(8) http://www.thedoctors.com/TDC/PressRoom/PressContent/CON_ID_004671

About the author:
Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world's healthiest foods.

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