Chief Communications Officer
American Medical Student Association
AMSA statement on physician and medical student suicide
Sterling, Va., May 3, 2018—Members and leaders of the American Medical Student Association want to extend our sincere and deepest condolences to the family, friends, and fellow students of the NYU Langone student who took her life this week. Medical student and physician suicide is on the rise and must be addressed before another life is taken. The mental health of our physicians and physicians-in-training is of the utmost importance now more than ever. How can our future physicians hope to care for patients when they themselves are hurting from the overwhelming emotional and physical stress that is placed on them? Stress and depression are often unseen and untreated, with it being twice as common for medical students to experience them and three times more likely for them to commit suicide in their age group. Medical students encounter emotionally traumatic experiences everyday and are burdened with the pressure to succeed, from the first day of high school to the day they retire. Seeking help has been associated with weakness or seen as selfish by peers or superiors, setting a double standard for physicians-in-training who ought to be just as concerned with their own mental health and well-being, as that of their patients.
This month of May is “Mental Health Month,” when we should be sharing our stories and experiences without judgment or shame. The de-stigmatization of mental illness in medical schools, hospitals and clinics, and in our general culture needs to become a priority now. It should not be viewed as selfish or weak to ask for help, and the burnout that physicians experience in their training or careers should not be hidden. By sharing the struggles and burdens we all experience, the stress can become more manageable and affirm our feelings of being overwhelmed.
AMSA has been working to share these stories of stress and struggle through storytelling events, through publications like The New Physician magazine, and through our Wellness & Student Life Action Committee. Recently, we had the privilege of welcoming Dr. Pamela Wible as a keynote at our national convention, where she discussed her new documentary, “Do No Harm,” that sheds light on the epidemic of physician suicide. We have also entered a partnership with BetterHelp to provide four weeks of professional online counseling for our members at no charge.
Let’s not allow another medical student’s death to be for nothing. Let it be a spark that lights the path to bringing awareness and change to a system that places blame on the physician. We need a health care system that heals the physician just as much as it heals the patient, then in turn physicians can lead meaningful lives in their practice and enhance patient care.
AMSA stands with the students, families, and patients who have lost their loved ones to suicide. We will not take this lightly and will fight to make a more just and caring system for the future generations of physicians and providers.
About the American Medical Student Association:
AMSA is the oldest and largest independent association of physicians-in-training in the United States. Founded in 1950, AMSA is a student-governed, non-profit organization committed to representing the concerns of physicians-in-training. To learn more about AMSA, our strategic priorities, or joining the organization, please visit us at amsa.org.