About 28% of medical residents experience a major depressive episode during their training, compared to 7-8% of people of the same age in the general US population.
“There is still so much stigma with mental health and mental health disorders. We are the people trained to help others, so it can be very difficult to ask for help,” said Dr. Sallie Wilson Luther, who works on suicide prevention efforts in the Dayton area.
While anyone in need of help can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, Wright State University’s 13th Annual Medical Spirituality Conference will bring together healthcare workers to explore the extent of the problem and examine the power of the connection. , healing and hope.
Luther has a history of volunteering with suicide prevention and helped organize the next conference. She lost her sister to suicide in 2000. She said that upon learning that medical professionals had a higher suicide rate, and then learning that women and medicine were at even higher risk, she believed that suicide prevention would be something where she could make an impact.
The conference will appeal to many different populations beyond healthcare professionals themselves. Daybreak’s Josh Egeland will address suicide among LGBTQ+ youth, Lisa Conn of Ohio’s Hospice will speak on grief and suicide, and RN Birdie Meyer will share her expertise in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
But Andarsio said they also wanted to make sure to talk about helping doctors and medical professionals.
The full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the suicide rate, and particularly for healthcare workers, is unclear at this point. The pandemic has exacerbated many long-standing stressors, such as burnout and understaffing, and recently healthcare workers have left the profession in large numbers.
Andarsio said many doctors are also concerned about whether their mental health issues will affect maintaining their license.
“I think…the pandemic has really exacerbated some of these issues,” Andarsio said.
Research shows that physicians who died by suicide were less likely to receive mental health treatment than non-physicians who died by suicide, although depression was found to be an important risk factor at about the same rate in the two groups.
Although Luther said more needs to be done, she believes there has been improvement in helping medical professionals get mental health help.
“I think we’re slowly striving and people are feeling more comfortable asking for help,” she said.
How to get help
Anyone can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and get free, confidential help. People can also chat online with a trained professional at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.
How to Attend the Wright State University Medical and Spiritual Conference
The conference will take place from 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on April 21 at the Sinclair Conference Center.
Registration is at medicine.wright.edu/med-spirit.