"I cry and no one cares"

Discover the invaluable resources from VITAL WorkLife and well-being leaders that provide guidance and support for physicians and healthcare organizations dealing with suicide awareness and prevention. 

Suicide is a concern for those working in healthcare, as they are often on the frontlines of dealing with the aftermath of suicide attempts and completed suicides. Although, healthcare workers may also be at higher risk for suicide themselves due to the stresses of their job, including long hours, high workload and exposure to traumatic events. It is important for healthcare organizations to prioritize suicide prevention and provide support for their staff to address this critical issue. 

However, even when that support exists, medical professionals are in a unique position to not seek out or accept mental health help. Stigma for seeking help is real, and getting confidential care is a valid concern. VITAL WorkLife is dedicated to improving the employee well-being of healthcare organizations–both at home and work–confidentially and with care. 

By understanding the gravity of suicide in healthcare, as well as warning signs and actionable steps for suicide prevention, you can make a difference for yourself and those around you.

If you believe yourself or a friend to be at risk for suicide, help is available. 

If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 9-8-8 or chat 988lifeline.org. 988 connects you with a trained crisis counselor who can help. 

You can also text the Crisis Text Line (text TALK or AYUDA to 741741) or visit afsp.org. 

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All the information, all in one place.

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Nurses and suicide risk

  • Female nurses are roughly twice as likely to die by suicide than the general female population;
  • and 70% more likely than female physicians,

according to a University of Michigan study examining suicide among physicians and nurses. 

Nurses and physicians face many similar risk factors for suicide, but in nurses those risk factors are potentially exacerbated by long hours and less autonomy, said co-author Christopher Friese, the Elizabeth Tone Hosmer Professor of Nursing and professor of health management and policy at the U-M School of Public Health. 

The challenges medical professionals face


Physicians and nurses give their all to their patients and to their profession. But in pursuing a career practically defined by self-sacrifice, they often accept the idea they are supposed to be superheroes, with an unlimited ability to keep going, no matter what the cost to themselves.  

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Accessing mental health resources should be easily accessible and confidential to ensure individuals in healthcare feel comfortable seeking help without the fear of repercussions to their licensure. It's crucial to offer a range of options for care, including counseling and peer coaching in a secure environment. Providing resources through various channels such as phone, online or in-person can make all the difference.


Medical professionals face various challenges that hinder them from seeking mental health care. Some of these obstacles include unmanageable workloads, inadequate recognition, a sense of not belonging, a loss of control, conflicting values, moral injury and a lack of awareness and engagement from leadership.

The well-being of your people can't wait.

Learn how to bring essential well-being resources to your healthcare organization—contact us.

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Talking about suicide

Terms to know

Suicidality: The American Psychological Association defines suicidality as “the risk of suicide, usually indicated by suicidal ideation or intent, especially as evident in the presence of a well-elaborated suicidal plan.” It can also be defined to include suicidal thoughts, plans, gestures or attempts. 

It is important to understand that those who contemplate suicide don’t really want to die. They want to escape or put an end to the pain that they feel. These intense, constant feelings and thoughts can lead someone to truly see completing suicide as the only viable option. 

When referring to suicide, use 

  • “attempted suicide,” 
  • “made an attempt,” 
  • “died by suicide” or 
  • “took his/her/their life.”

Burnout: Burnout is a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. The three key dimensions of this response are 

  • an overwhelming exhaustion,  
  • feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job,  
  • and a sense of reduced efficacy and lack of accomplishment.  

The significance of this three‐part model is that it clearly places the individual stress experience within a social context and involves the person's conception of both self and others. 

Ideation: Suicidal ideations (SI), often called suicidal thoughts or ideas, is a broad term used to describe a range of contemplations, wishes, and preoccupations with death and suicide. There is no universally accepted consistent definition of SI, which leads to ongoing challenges for clinicians, researchers and educators. 

How to talk about suicide

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a national leader in suicide prevention and awareness, lists conversation starters for you and your loved ones. Just talking about mental health can be the first step in understanding where others are with their mental health–and helping them get support if needed.

  • How do you feel about the future, even if it's just tomorrow?
  • What is one thing you are looking forward to?
  • How do you seek a sense of security?
  • What are some things that make you feel stressed?
  • What makes you feel supported?
  • Who do you reach out to when you need someone to be there for you?

The timing doesn't have to be perfect

  • It's okay to circle back if you don't have time the moment you notice someone struggling
  • Sometimes, you just need to let them know you can create space for them

What if they hesitate?

They might worry that sharing how they feel makes them a burden to others. In your own words, tell them you're here to listen and support—without judgement and that you want to be there for them.

Maybe you aren't the best person for them to talk to. Ask them if talking to you is helpful, or if there's someone else who can better support them.

What if they're ready to talk–and they're having a really hard time?

  • Reassure them it's okay to talk about hard times. Just because they are struggling now, doesn't mean they always will.
  • If you're ready to show up for them, ask them for more details and let them know you're here for them: "What's the worst thing about what you're going through right now?"
  • Include that getting help from a mental health professional can truly make a difference for their situation.

Discover more guidance from AFSP on leading and responding to mental health conversations.

How to end the conversation

End the conversation by reiterating:

  • You're so glad you were able to connect together and talk about meaningful things;
  • Remind them we all have challenges at times and
  • You'll continue to be there for them.

Breaking through stigma 

Accept your humanity. This may seem intuitive, but it is crucial—and often pushed aside. Physicians should acknowledge they have valid human needs and they deserve to have those needs met. 
Be aware of stress, loss of joy in medicine and incipient burnout. Paying attention to your emotional state is important in order to identify developing emotional and mental health problems.  It isn’t an easy thing to self-monitor in this way and checking in with a colleague periodically is a helpful barometer. For example: “Stacy, you know me pretty well. Have you noticed any changes in my mood or my behavior recently? 

Ask for help. A powerful strategy to address the stigma is to defy it completely. 

  • Speak to a colleague honestly about stress, anxiety or depressed mood.
  • Talk with leadership about organizational needs around physician well-being 
  • Be a role model by taking advantage of existing well-being  resources and share your experiences with colleagues 



Suicide Postvention in Healthcare Webinar Recording


1. What do the experts say to de-stigmatize the conversation around suicide.

2. Discover organizational best practices to navigate the long-term impacts of suicide.

3. Share in a safe community conversation during the webinar.

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A Healthcare Organization’s Actions and Postvention Steps for Physician Death by Suicide

In this article, you’ll learn more on how to respond and recover if suicidality or suicide occurs in your healthcare organization. 

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Postvention: Addressing Needs After a Suicide Infographic

Tragically, anywhere from 300 to 400 physicians die by suicide each year. Having a strategic plan in place in your healthcare organization is crucial and required to best address everyone’s needs. 

Download PDF
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Article: Healing the Healer: Providing a Path Towards Physician Suicide Prevention

There’s a painful fact about medicine today, one practitioners and healthcare organizations are often hesitant to talk about: physicians choose to end their lives at a rate around twice that of the general population. Learn more about the drivers of physician suicide and actions for prevention.

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Webinar with VITAL WorkLife & Betsy Gall: Physician Suicide Interview

Hear real, raw and powerful words from Betsy Gall about her husband, Dr. Matthew Gall, who died by suicide in 2019, and what he was experiencing leading up to his death. You will hear what Betsy believes prevented her husband from getting the help he needed, the stigma and fear he felt about losing his medical license and more.

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Infographic: Weathering the Storm: Physician Burnout, Depression and Suicide

Suicide is a complex and often daunting issue with multiple contributing factors. Download the infographic and learn more about the relationship between physician burnout, depression and suicide.

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Article: Physician Suicide: One Family's Story of Unthinkable Loss, Pain, Awareness and Growth

Read the story of Dr. Matthew Gall, who tragically died by suicide in 2019, as told by his wife, Betsy Gall. Betsy shares Matthew's situation leading up to his death, what she believes were barriers and stigma preventing her husband from seeking support and more.

Download Article

To Save a Physician-eBook 10-067-1119_Page_01-3-1-1

eBook: To Save a Physician

This eBook tells a powerful story about a healthcare organization and its physicians—one who is struggling herself—in the aftermath of a colleague's death.

Download eBook
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Webinar: Healing the Healer: Awareness and Prevention Strategies for Physician Suicide

Learn about factors pushing physicians from depression to suicide, recognizing the role of leaders and colleagues who witness a struggling physician and strategies to enhance physician well being and educate colleagues on when to reach out to a physician. 

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Blog: Recognizing and Addressing Signs of Suicide

Read this blog to understand warning signs of suicide, how you can support a colleague, when to take a step back, and what organizations can do to support their physicians who are struggling.

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Webinar: A Personal Story of Suicidality and Survival

Loice Swisher, MD, FAAFP, shares her story so that others who are suffering can see there are ones who made it to the other side—practice of medicine and life intact.

It is exceedingly important to realize that stories of hope and recovery are true.

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Internal Barriers Healthcare Workers Face when Seeking Mental Healthcare

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Crisis and Support Resources for Healthcare Workers

Suicide can be prevented. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health distress and/or is in crisis, support is available. Click here for a list of hotlines and resources.

For Physicians:

Learn how to check in with a physician in your life at NPSAday.org.

How do I advocate for someone in need?

Nearly 100% of American adults think suicide can be prevented, but often don’t know where to start or how to support someone with such a personal and sensitive concern. And there’s the ever-looming question; what if you push them further from help? To help you prevent suicide, separate myth from fact and become an advocate for someone in need, we pulled together great resources you might find useful. 

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Mental Health for Those in Healthcare Toolkit

Often as a caregiver, it's all too easy to overlook your own mental health and well-being. Explore a wealth of information on mental health in healthcare, designed to support caregivers in prioritizing their own well-being.

Visit Resource

The well-being of your people can't wait.

Learn how to bring essential well-being resources to your healthcare organization–contact us.

Contact Us