Objective To encourage treatment of depression and prevention of suicide in physicians
by calling for a shift in professional attitudes and institutional policies
to support physicians seeking help.
Participants An American Foundation for Suicide Prevention planning group invited
15 experts on the subject to evaluate the state of knowledge about physician
depression and suicide and barriers to treatment. The group assembled for
a workshop held October 6-7, 2002, in Philadelphia, Pa.
Evidence The planning group worked with each participant on a preworkshop literature
review in an assigned area. Abstracts of presentations and key publications
were distributed to participants before the workshop. After workshop presentations,
participants were assigned to 1 of 2 breakout groups: (1) physicians in their
role as patients and (2) medical institutions and professional organizations.
The groups identified areas that required further research, barriers to treatment,
and recommendations for reform.
Consensus Process This consensus statement emerged from a plenary session during which
each work group presented its recommendations. The consensus statement was
circulated to and approved by all participants.
Conclusions The culture of medicine accords low priority to physician mental health
despite evidence of untreated mood disorders and an increased burden of suicide.
Barriers to physicians' seeking help are often punitive, including discrimination
in medical licensing, hospital privileges, and professional advancement. This
consensus statement recommends transforming professional attitudes and changing
institutional policies to encourage physicians to seek help. As barriers are
removed and physicians confront depression and suicidality in their peers,
they are more likely to recognize and treat these conditions in patients,
including colleagues and medical students.