From the Ending of Intravenous Hope, Stat!
Possible solutions for doctors with chronic illness*
The article summarized here does not describe suicidal
doctors, but the recommendations could help mitigate some of the factors that
lead up to suicidal thinking.
1. Improve or develop career
guidance or counseling services for doctors whose careers may be jeopardized
through ill health
2. Improve medical staffing
levels to ensure doctors are able to take time off for short periods without an
unreasonable increase in their colleagues' workload
3. Improve occupational health
services and training so that consultant led services are accessible to all
4. Ensure that appropriate
attitudes towards doctors' health problems are encouraged in medical school and
5. Ensure secured funding for
retraining doctors who cannot continue in their chosen career because of ill
*Adapted from Taking Care of Doctors' Health: Reducing
Avoidable Stress and Improving Services for Doctors who Fall Ill produced by Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust,
London, January 1996
Summing Up Final Chapter
A suicidal health professional might search unsuccessfully
or successfully for web sites that speak directly to their condition; I hope
that one or another reference in this book might be useful.
Some professionals never discuss their decision to kill
themselves. Peers, family or friends may hesitate to bring up their concerns
about the professional's state of mind.
The general advice to peers and family is to go ahead and
ask if you think the person may be depressed, exhausted, apathetic, withdrawn,
or suffering in any way. The excerpt just above summarizes some of the ways to
improve access to help. Various other resources appear in earlier chapters and
the Appendix. Would-be helpers need to bear in mind the fears of many
professionals that exposing their vulnerabilities could lead to a temporary
loss of license and/or possible alienation of referral sources.
This concludes what I hope has been a helpful journey
through some of the most difficult terrain I know. I hope that readers who are
at risk for self-harm will take the step of seeking help from one of the many
sources in their region or even online.
After all, we can ask only that you try a source of help, or
try a new source if the last one didn't prove satisfactory. We can't insist
that you immediately change your mind about suicide. Rather, your colleagues,
family, and I hope that you can defer that decision, at least for the time it
takes to "see somebody."
As I mentioned earlier, my experience with a severe
post-viral lassitude syndrome gave me a first-hand awareness of the desolate
mental landscape of profound apathy that some of you are managing to survive,
day after day.
No one should have to live that way, when the right kind of
help could make a difference. Now, having reached the age of eighty, I find
myself in tears as I write these closing words, hoping that I have made a wise
decision in writing this book, and that you will have made a wise decision in
reading at least some of it.
May your search continue, and end in peace, for you and
those around you.