Healthcare professionals' mental health and suicide risk
AFSP is focused on sharing facts and awareness, offering programs, resources and supporting public policies to prevent suicide and support the wellbeing of health care professionals.
Learn about health care professional mental health and suicide risk
Health care professionals who are proactive about their own health — both physical and mental — protect their ability to maintain optimal, safe patient care. Real and perceived barriers lead many health care professionals to avoid addressing their own mental health needs all too often. An unprecedented number of health care professionals experience burnout, depression and other forms of distress, and are at in increased risk for suicide as compared to the general population. AFSP believes we must prioritize the mental health of our frontline medical professionals and encourage help-seeking behaviors for mental health concerns and substance use disorders by reducing stigma, increasing resources, and having open conversations about mental health.
Discover facts about preventing suicide among physicians and veterinarians
Research, Articles & Books
- Creating a Safety Net: Preventing Physician Suicide – An article by AFSP Chief Medical Officer Christine Moutier, M.D., for the Association of American Medical Colleges’ AAMC News.
- Nurse Suicide: Breaking the Silence – The National Academy of Medicine released a landmark paper in 2018 as a call for action regarding nurse suicide.
- Nurse suicide in the United States – A national study of suicide in nursing professionals finds elevated risk.
- Reducing the Stigma: Faculty Speak Out About Suicide Rates Among Medical Students, Physicians – An article by Dana Cook Grossman, for the Association of American Medical Colleges’ AAMC News.
- Physician Mental Health: An Evidence-Based Approach to Change – Article in the Journal of Medical Regulation by Dr. Christine Moutier, AFSP’s CMO
- Sustainability and Outcomes of a Suicide Prevention Program for Nurses – Article in Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing
- Why Physicians Die by Suicide – Dr. Michael Myers guides readers through the variety of factors that contribute to physician suicide. He then makes practical, across-the-board recommendations in an effort to prevent this tragedy, arriving at the encouraging conclusion that everyone has a role to play in saving a doctor’s life.
Videos & Podcasts
- Preventing Suicide in Physicians, Residents and Medical Students (Video) – Dr. Christine Moutier addresses the American Psychiatric Association, May 20, 2016.
- Suicide Risk in Physicians – Emergency Physician Dr. Mel Herbert produces a popular podcast called EMRAP for healthcare professionals in Emergency Medicine. In this 26-minute podcast he speaks with Dr. Christine Moutier about suicide risk and prevention for physicians and trainees.
- Veterinary Medicine Professionals Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Webinar – Hosted by AMVA Life and Pet Poison Helpline, Dr. Christine Moutier presents the data related to both human and animal medicine HCPs as well as evidence based or promising approaches to reduce risk.
Programs and resources for health care professionals
AFSP Programs and Resources
Interactive Screening Program (ISP) – AFSP’s signature intervention program, the ISP is an online tool used by medical schools, including colleges of veterinary medicine, hospitals and health systems, across the country as a method of connecting to students, residents, faculty, staff and employees and encouraging them to utilize available mental health services before crises emerge. ISP is listed as a Best Practice for Suicide Prevention and is an integral part of a comprehensive suicide prevention and mental health promotion strategy.
Make the Difference: Preventing Medical Trainee Suicide (Video) – A 4-minute PSA from Mayo Clinic and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that explains how everyone can help prevent suicide by being alert for the signs of depression and escaping stress and how to be most helpful. This film can be used in medical school physician wellness, humanism and professionalism curricula. Featured at top of this page.
Struggling in Silence: Physician Depression and Suicide (DVD) – An award-winning, one-hour documentary from AFSP that sheds light on the topic of physician mental health and suicide prevention, featured on public television stations nationwide. This film can be used in medical school physician wellness, humanism and professionalism curricula.
Struggling in Silence/Out of the Silence (DVD) – Two short videos (15 minutes each) describing physician and medical student depression and suicide risk. A printable resource guide and slide set are available for both films. These films can be used in medical school physician wellness, humanism and professionalism curricula.
Partner Programs and Resources
Preventing Physician Distress and Suicide – Tools for identifying at-risk physicians and facilitating access to care from the American Medical Association.
Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Resources – Resources to share with programs, institutions, residents, and fellows that promote a culture of physician well-being and provide support in the case of burnout, depression, or suicide.
ASK – Assess, Support, Know – Developed by Banfield Pet Hospital® “ASK” (Assess, Support, Know) is the first of its kind training designed specifically to help veterinary professionals recognize and address emotional distress and suicidal thoughts in themselves and others. The ASK training is available as a free resource for the entire veterinary profession.
Web-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Medical Trainees (Guille, C., et al., JAMA Psychiatry, 2015)
Intervention to Promote Physician Well-being (West, C.P., et al. JAMA Intern Med., 2014)
Advocating for health care professionals
AFSP supports the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which will serve to herald greater mental health support for the medical community. The legislation includes provisions that establish and expand mental health support programs to health care providers; fund research to evaluate healthcare professional mental health; and establish an education and awareness campaign. To learn more please visit the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation website.
Additional advocacy efforts outside of the legislation to support physician mental health include eliminating questions about physician mental health by licensing boards and health care institutions. This required disclosure in many states reinforces stigma, erroneously equates mental health conditions with impairment, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, and has prevented physicians from reaching out for help.
Please visit afsp.org/actioncenter to learn more about the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, and how you can take action.