How medical training can affect the physician psyche

Since the two very sudden public suicide deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, society has again recognized that we never know what is under the surface of another’s façade. As physicians, these tragic occurrences emphasize that our caregiving requires seeing the entirety of an individual’s many parts.

While we acknowledge that the façade is not fake — it is but one true representation of an individual, well-curated, like pages on Facebook or Instagram — no one mourns the corporate façade created for these individuals. We mourn the fact that despite feeling we know someone, we didn’t see it coming. This is that much harder when it is a loved one, and most frightening when you might see it in yourself.  Especially, if you are a physician.

As physicians, we first learned to identify anxiety and depression in others. With the increasing rates of physician suicide and the (sometimes) fine line between that and physician burnout, we are now vigilant to identify at-risk colleagues as physician suicide permeates the fabric of American medicine. Using an objective lens is what we do best, but it is also our shield. To turn that lens on oneself is terrifying.

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