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October 28, 2020

Gatekeeper Training and the Medical Community’s Fight Against Depression and Suicide—A Shared Burden

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of General Surgery, Department of Surgery, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington
JAMA Surg. 2021;156(3):215-216. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2020.3315

The flag had been folded, gently pressed into the hands of shattered loved ones. Brothers and sisters in arms drifted slowly away from the grave site, turning inward to grieve another loss endured in an impossibly tragic year. Another lonely battle lost. Another suicide.

“I’m sorry, my friend,” whispered once more, and too many times, into an empty afternoon. I turned away after a final goodbye, heading for home where profound grief would contrast dichotomously with the absurd normalcy of life in the hospital. My heart was broken and the weight of guilt was crushing. Compounding that heaviness of heart was the realization that the specter of depression and suicide haunted, with equal ferocity, those in my old life and new. As devastatingly certain as I am that we will continue to lose members of our military family to this disease, I am equally certain that members of our medical family will be taken as well.

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1 Comment for this article
Society's United Fight Against Depression and Suicide
Michael McAleer, PhD(Econometrics),Queen's | Asia University, Taiwan
The medical community has a key role and shared burden in dealing with depression and suicide in the military, which seem to be common denominators in both dignified professions.

The recognition by the community that such thoughts and acts by patients in the military and medical professions need a united response are also paramount to the gatekeeper's role as a shared burden.

Society needs to appreciate, respect, and accept the stress that is associated with military action, especially in terms of entering, after a life of service, the broader community that has little understanding of the pressures and
primary threats that are faced in serving the country, especially when their lives are threatened on a daily basis