Documentary Examines the High Rate of Physician Suicide

Published: April 21, 2008

NEW YORK – Physicians, particularly female physicians, have the highest suicide rate of any profession in the country. Every year, between 300 and 400 doctors take their own lives. In May 2008, a PBS special will cover this phenomenon.

Some experts attribute the high rate of suicide to undiagnosed and untreated depression. Many doctors do not seek treatment because they are afraid they will lose the respect of their peers, patients and their licenses if they admit they have a mental health problem. Substance abuse and the availability of lethal drugs are other factors that put physicians at risk.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention issued the following release regarding this documentary:

Struggling in Silence

——Article Continues Below——

Get the latest industry news and research delivered directly to your inbox.

Feature Documentary Exploring Physician Depression and SuicidePremieres on Public Television in May 2008

New York, N.Y. – Studies over the last four decades have confirmed that physicians, especially women physicians, die by suicide more frequently than people in other professions or than those in the general population.

Struggling In Silence: Physician Depression and Suicide is a one-hour high definition documentary, which will be presented by KCET-TV in May 2008. The program conveys the impact of physician suicide on families, patients and communities through the stories of two physicians lost to suicide. It also shares the accounts of those living with mood disorders: a freshman medical student with depression and anxiety who considered dropping out, a surgeon diagnosed with depression who overcame stigmatizing attitudes and policies within his state and profession, and a prominent neurologist whose bipolar disorder introduced her to new areas of research and patient care.

Through expert interviews, the program offers valuable information about depression, itssymptoms, neurobiology and treatment. It also explores the professional policies and cultural stigma that prevent physicians and medical school students from seeking help for these treatable illnesses, which if left untreated, can lead to suicide.

“Each day in the United States, roughly one doctor dies by suicide. This takes an enormous toll on their families, but it also affects patients and entire communities,” said Dr. Paula Clayton, medical director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). “Similar to other educational initiatives surrounding physicians’ health, such as smoking cessation campaigns, we hope this film will be the start of an ongoing dialogue surrounding physicians and depression and treatment.”

The documentary is part of an ongoing outreach campaign that seeks to educate physicians about depression so that they can better recognize the symptoms in themselves and their patients while also cultivating a better understanding of mood disorders in the community at large.

In addition to the documentary, an educational video called Out of the Silence: Medical Student Depression and Suicide was designed specifically as an educational tool for use at medical schools. Since many of the mood disorders that can lead to suicide may first become evident during medical school, where professional and institutional barriers already exist, the goal of this program is to encourage help seeking among medical students. A third film compiles the three personal accounts from the three doctors who struggle personally with mood disorders, to create a 15-minute educational video for use in hospitals, residency trainings and at educationalconferences and seminars. Both educational DVDs include resource materials and discussion guides. More resources and information are available at

Struggling in Silence was produced in association with the AFSP, which funded this project as part of its continuing commitment to encourage recognition and treatment of physician depression and reducing suicide. In 2002, AFSP launched its Physician Depression and Suicide Prevention Project with a workshop. Following the AFSP-sponsored workshop, experts drafted a consensus statement that was later published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2003.

Later meetings developed specific action plans, which were reported in the American Medical Association’s publication, Medical News. The initial workshop was supported by the Bob and Lynn Bernard Charitable Fund of the Ayco Charitable Foundation.

The program was produced and directed by State of the Art Inc. in Washington, DC. State of the Art Inc. is an Academy award®-winning communications company, with extensive experience creating health programming, particularly in the area of mental health.

The Struggling in Silence broadcast is being released in May 2008 for Mental Health Awareness Month by distributor American Public Television (APT). APT has been a prime source of programming for the nation’s public television stations, distributing more than 300 new program titles per year. APT has established a tradition of providing public television stations with program choices that strengthen and customize their schedules, such as Domingo Pavarotti in Concert, Winged Migration, Battlefield Britain, Globe Trekker and other prominent documentaries, dramatic series, how-to programs, children’s series and classic movies. The program was underwritten by the American College of Psychiatrists and Wyeth.

About the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research andeducation, and to reaching out to people with mood disorders and those affected by suicide. For more information please visit

For additional information:

Posted in: News

Tagged with:

Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series