What I wish my family had known about medical residency

I sometimes get messages from people who have lost physician colleagues and loved ones to suicide. It’s the specifics of these stories that wound me: a note left for an unexpected person; an insignificant fight at sign-out that in retrospect is full of meaning; the white coat that a woman wore when she jumped to her death. Each of these lives is complex, and each of these deaths defies easy answers. But universally, those left behind ask me: why weren’t they warned that this could happen?

I gave a speech recently at the Committee of Interns and Residents’ national convention. They have done great work fighting for trainees, though it’s a constant uphill battle. I spoke about my own experiences with depression and suicide, physicians we had lost, and the crushing stigma that so many trainees continue to face when seeking care. In the reactions of the hundreds of physicians that were there, and the questions that they asked me, I could tell that these were their stories too and that many had never opened up about this before. I wish every new resident, their family, their chief residents, and their administrators could see this talk and figure out how we can do better by one another.

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