National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week of Action

Your Classroom, Institution, Community

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Wellness & Student Life (WSL) Action Committee is proud to bring to you Suicide Prevention and Awareness (SPA) Week of Action. This year SPA will take place September 10-18, 2018, in honor of Suicide Awareness Month. During this week of action, we aim to shed light and spark advocacy efforts regarding suicide, depression, mental health, and the public health crisis of medical trainee and physician suicide, depression, and burnout.  Our objective is to raise awareness, educate, advocate for positive changes, and act by checking in on colleagues, friends, and family members—especially those working in the health care field—to prevent another suicide from happening. Suicide can be prevented. Let’s act together to make this a reality.

SPA will bathe you with the necessary medicinal resources to build and maintain your resilience, help you refocus and reflect on your own wellbeing, and give you resources to help others through the obstacles they encounter. SPA utilizes a variety of interactive and innovative events to inform and inspire the actions needed to change the way we view mental health, mental illnesses,  and the systematic policies that govern medical education and training. We hope that this week will enable you to empathize with others’ situations and prioritize your mental health in your medical training and education.

As future healers, let’s change the narrative and place mental wellbeing back into the health care equation. Mental health = physical health! Mental health is just as important as physical health. We need to de-stigmatization mental health illnesses and humanize the needs of healthcare trainees and professionals so that we can foster a nurturing and supportive culture in medicine.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.” Gandhi

With medical student and physician suicide, depression, and burnout rising and becoming a global public health crisis, we cannot simply standby and ignore these problems any further. Healthcare professionals and trainees encounter emotionally traumatic and stressful experiences every day. They are burdened with the pressure to succeed, from the first day of high school to the day they retire, putting them at risk of suicidal ideation and potential crisis. If measures are not taken to stop this epidemic, not only will the 2030 projected physician shortage of more than 100,000 (AAMCNEWS) continue to grow, but the culture of the healthcare field, its practitioners, their families, and patients will continue to be devastated by the broken system that does not put the wellbeing of its practitioners at the forefront.

Our goal is to raise awareness about these issues and collectively work towards actionable efforts to correct systematic policies in favor of supporting the wellbeing of health professionals and trainees. Our objective is to create a forum for open and honest conversation that acknowledges the challenges of training and practicing medicine. We aim to work towards breaking down the stigma and fear of consequences around mental illnesses and suicide, while educating the community how to recognize warning signs and how to approach colleagues who may be at risk. We hope that this SPA week of action will bring the healthcare community together and humanize healthcare practitioners in the face of the public.

This is a call to action to critically examine our current healthcare system and institute positive changes to stop the suicide epidemic and promote mental health practices that elevate the wellbeing of individuals in the general public, our medical trainees, and professionals.

Rebekah Apple, MA, DHSc

Rebekah is the Master of Medical Management (MMM) Program Director at Carnegie Mellon University. In this webinar, on Monday, September 10th, she will focus on the importance of resilience in both personal and professional settings.  Bad stuff is going to happen eventually, it’s how you respond to it that makes you who you are.

Rebekah Apple has designed and delivered educational programs for the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Physicians, Texas Health Resources and the Pennsylvania Medical Society, among others. She was responsible for customizing the world-recognized CPI 260 assessment to address leadership competencies specific to physicians, which she uses with other assessments to help physicians develop cultures of trust, maintain resiliency and lead through change. She also has customized a self-awareness assessment for medical students preparing for residency.

With a special interest in health care organizational ethics, Apple was a voting member of the University of South Florida Division of Research Integrity and Compliance Conflict of Interest Committee and served on the Florida Hospital Ethics Committee, Suncoast Hospice Ethics Committee and as bioethics peer reviewer for Advances in Skin & Wound Care. She served on the Culture of Integrity Task Force for the American Medical Women’s Association, and regularly provided in-service training on ethical responses to shooting events in hospitals. Apple was also a member of the board of directors for Choice for Care, a certified facilitator for Advance Directives, and taught undergraduate health care ethics at St. Petersburg College.

On Tuesday, September 11, Wellness & Student Life (WSL) Action Committee encouraged us to check in with a friend or family member about how they’re really feeling. Give them a chance to talk and take the opportunity to listen as well!

Checking in on someone can make all the difference. Most of the time, the people who are hurting the most are the best at hiding it. Those who choose to pursue a medical profession and are in training are especially good are shaking things off and moving onwards without acknowledging how they are truly feeling. When these feelings pile up, it is especially difficult to reconcile them. Fear of being a burden towards others often deters people from talking about how they are feeling or saying that they are struggling with something. Today, we challenge you to step forward and truly talk to a friend or family member. Set aside your phone and truly connect with them. Here are some resources to help you practice and exercise generous and reflective listening. Listening to someone without passing judgments or offering advice can be the best way to prevent a potential crisis.

Generous and Reflective Listening:

Listening Generously with Rachel Naomi Remen Rachel Naomi Remen’s lifelong struggle with chronic illness has shaped her philosophy and practice of medicine. She speaks about the art of listening to patients and other physicians, the difference between curing and healing, and how our losses help us to live.

Reflective Listening Guide to practicing effective reflective listening.

Empathy (video)

Everyone does wellness a different way and on Wednesday, September 12, we hope you showed off your personal version of wellness to all of your followers with the Suicide Prevention and Awareness (SPA) InstaChallenge. Use the tags #SPAWellnessWednesday #AMSAWSL #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #wellness!

Thursday, September 13, was AMSA’s Med Student Day, to focus on student wellness and raise mental health awareness in the medical student community.

BetterHelp, a company that provides professional counseling via phone, video, or online chat, joined us Friday, September 14, to share stress management strategies for mental and physical wellbeing. If you are an AMSA member, you get four weeks of counseling free of charge.

Stressed out with school, work, personal stuff, or the combination of all three? Saturday, September 15, aimed to bust up those stressors and refocus on your wellbeing.

*cha ching, cha ching, cha ching* Pursuing a profession as a physician is an expensive journey, and its cost is a common stressor amongst trainees and physicians. Talking about its cost is taboo, especially in the medical field with people saying, “Oh, you’ll be fine. You are going to be making a ton of money.” This is often not the case, as specialties and location of practice complicate matters. DOCTORED MONEY joined us for a webinar on Sunday, September 16, to answer your burning questions and start taking control of your financial decisions! 

This webinar was facilitated by Dalton Haslam, MD, and Sotirios Keros, MD PHD.

Dalton Haslam, MD

Co-Founder and Site Director

Dalton attended medical school at Columbia University in New York City and is currently a second year resident at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in Pediatrics. He grew up in San Diego with a father who often gave Sunday afternoon whiteboard talks on the evils of credits cards and the importance of maxing out your 401(k) contributions. He enjoys surfing the web for new budgeting tips and has a special interest in behavioral economics and finance. His favorite philosopher is Bill Watterson.

Sotirios Keros, MD PHD

Co-founder and Financial Guru

Sotirios is an Assistant Professor in Pediatric Neurology at Sanford Children’s Hospital / University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls. He has been providing free financial education to health care professionals for 15+ years. He is a self proclaimed Boglehead who once contributed to his blog on personal finance, medicine, and medical education. He is also a licenced tax preparer and financial planner.

Physicians and medical trainees have the highest rates of suicide and depression. National Physician Suicide Awareness Day on Monday, September 17, is the day to shine a light on this important issue and speak its name to change the culture of medicine and save lives. Let us challenge each other on the individual, community, institution, and organization level to make changes to reach zero physician suicides. Suicide can be prevented. Be the one to be there.


Make the Difference: Preventing Medical Trainee Suicide (video)

Language Matters: Committed Suicide vs Completed Suicide vs Died by Suicide (article)

Dr. Melita Schuster, DO, is an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine and much of her work focuses on wellness through health and nutrition.  We discussed ways in which you can stay healthy and eat right even while on a crazy medical student schedule on Tasty Tuesday, September 18.  The webinar concluded with a cooking demonstration!

Melita Marcial-Schuster, DO

Dr. Marcial-Schuster, DO joined the Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2013 as an assistant professor of family medicine. She graduated from Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens, Ohio, in 1996. She completed an Osteopathic Rotating Internship at Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky, Ohio in 1997. She completed her Family Medicine residency at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo Ohio in 1999. She worked for a year at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center with the Family Medicine Residency program. She completed a fellowship in academic leadership medicine from Ohio University in 1999. She was in private practice with her husband for eight years in Huron, Ohio. She precepted students in both her office and in the family medicine residency program at Firelands Regional Medical Center. She relocated to Des Moines University where she served as assistant professor in family medicine 2008-13. She is a graduate of Dr. Andrew Weil’s two-year fellowship program in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona in December 2012. Her medical interests include integrative medicine and promoting health and wellness through proper nutrition and exercise, Osteopathic manual medicine, and women’s health. She is passionate about teaching medical students the art of listening, which was a promise that she made to her grandmother upon entering medical school. Her outside interests include running, strength training, playing with her two children and two dogs (English Setters), spending time with her husband, family, and friends with a good meal and laughter.