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May 2015

Depression and Suicide Among Physician TraineesRecommendations for a National Response

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York
  • 2New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York
JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(5):411-412. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.3050

In the first 2 months of the 2014-2015 academic year, 2 New York City medical interns died in apparent suicides. In response, an intern from Yale School of Medicine wrote an op–ed in the New York Times highlighting the link between medical training and isolation, depression, and suicide among trainees. Physician suicide is a common occurrence. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 300 to 400 physicians commit suicide each year, approximately 1 physician per day.1 Medical training involves numerous risk factors for mental illness, such as role transition, decreased sleep, relocation resulting in fewer available support systems, and feelings of isolation. A substantial body of evidence has demonstrated that trainees in particular are at high risk for depression and suicidal thinking, but many training programs have not been able to identify and provide treatment for these residents and fellows in a systematic way. National organizations, such as the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), should address the mental health of residents and fellows by proposing strategies for comprehensive education, screening, and treatment.

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