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December 27, 1985

My Dear Colleague: Are You Considering Suicide?

Author Affiliations

Dr Victoroff is in private practice in Cleveland.

JAMA. 1985;254(24):3464-3466. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360240076039

I SAT in one of those uncomfortable metal folding chairs the director set about the funeral parlor to accommodate overflow guests. The "dearly beloved deceased," a physician suicide, lay on white satin, his face spray-painted in mortuary pink and green. His eyes were closed; a faint, supercilious sneer distorted his mouth, a failure of reconstructive efforts to conceal facial injury suffered when he drove his car into a bridge abutment. At the age of 45, his life was smashed. The shards of what was left sat about me.

His wife sat rigid, stiff-backed, and grim, staring with contempt at the minister as we listened to boiler-plate platitudes. An older brother sat across the aisle from her.

A 6-year-old child, wide-eyed and uncomprehending, stood next to her mother, whose arm circled her shoulders. In the adjoining chair, a 12-year-old boy sat sobbing. The new widow extended her hand to cover his.