7 Things You Don’t Know About Doctor Suicides That Could Be Putting Your Life at Risk

Most of us wish our health care system served us better. We pay too much for too little care. Often, we take our frustration out on our doctors. But our doctors may be in worse shape than we are. I know. I was in medical school and saw what we do to our doctors. They work ungodly hours. Medical training is more like a perverse military boot camp than a training for care and compassion. Medical students are often bullied and shamed. I could see the true face of the profession I was planning to go into. I dropped out of medical school and went into social work. Before I could leave I had to see a psychiatrist. “You must be crazy to leave medical school and give up a 4-year-full-tuition fellowship,” I was told. I knew I’d be crazy if I stayed. Leaving saved my life. Others are not so lucky.

Did you know…

  1. High doctor suicide rates have been reported since 1858. Yet more than 150 years later the root causes of these suicides remain unaddressed.

You’d think that a problem going on this long would be addressed before now. But it has taken a doctor to come out of the closet and tell the truth about the most serious medical crisis no one want to talk about.

“I’ve been a doctor for 20 years,” says Pamela Wible, M.D., “At 46, I’ve never lost a patient to suicide. But I’ve lost friends, colleagues, lovers — all male physicians. Four hundred physicians per year are lost to suicide, according to a Medscape report. I was determined to find out why.”

  1. Physician suicide is a public health crisisOne million Americans lose their doctors to suicide each year.

About 400 doctors commit suicide each year, according to studies, though researchers have suggested that is probably an underestimation. Given that a typical doctor has about 2,300 patients, under his or her care, that means more than a million Americans will lose a physician to suicide this year.

  1. We lose way more men than women. For every woman who dies by suicide in medicine, we lose seven men. Suicide is a tragedy, no whether it’s a man or a woman who dies, but when a problem effects one gender and seven times the rate of the other, we need to pay attention. If women were dying from a problem at rates seven times higher than men there would be an outcry of rage and action would be taken.

But we still treat men as if we were less important than women. Suicide is the ultimate expression that life has become so heavy we want out. The suicide rate for men in all professions is four to fifteen times higher than it is for women and increases with age. In my book, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression, I talk about the fact that men express depression different than women. Men act out in anger. Women turn their pain inside. Here are questions to ask to better assess depression in men.

  1. Happy” doctors die by suicide.

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Why Women Are Saying “No” to Marriage and Men Are Becoming Angry, Depressed, and Lonely

Hannah K. LeeThere are two intersecting trends that are changing the ways men and women live and love. I see these changes in my friends and family and in the clients who come to me for marriage and family counseling. These changes have taken place, for the most part, under the radar of our awareness but they are changing everything from how we deal with our health to who we elect as our next president.

A recent book review in the New York Times, from which the above picture was taken, begins:

“Throughout America’s history, the start of adult life for women — whatever else it might have been destined to include — had been typically marked by marriage,” Rebecca Traister writes in her new book, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. “Since the late 19th century, the median age of first marriage for women had fluctuated between 20 and 22. This had been the shape, pattern and definition of female life.”

But the times are changing, big time. An article in New York Magazine quotes Ms. Traister’s research:

“In 2009, the proportion of American women who were married dropped below 50 percent. In other words, for the first time in American history, single women (including those who were never married, widowed, divorced, or separated) outnumbered married women. Perhaps even more strikingly, the number of adults younger than 34 who had never married was up to 46 percent, rising 12 percentage points in less than a decade. For women under 30, the likelihood of being married has become astonishingly small: Today, only around 20 percent of Americans ages 18–29 are wed, compared to nearly 60 percent in 1960.”

“It is a radical upheaval, a national reckoning with massive social and political implications,” says Traister. “Across classes, and races, we are seeing a wholesale revision of what female life might entail. We are living through the invention of independent female adulthood as a norm, not an aberration, and the creation of an entirely new population: adult women who are no longer economically, socially, sexually, or reproductively dependent on or defined by the men they marry.”

So, we might summarize one trend as: “Independent Single Ladies on the Rise.”
[Read more…]

The One Big Taboo No One in the World Wants to Talk About

4256940366_c23c3c0e0d_oFive years after I was born, my father tried to take his own life. He ended up in a mental hospital and I grew up wondering what happened to my father and if it would happen to me. My mother later married an alpha-male powerhouse who conned her into believing he would make everything better in her world, but left her, and me, alone and despondent.

I believe our childhood wounds have a great influence on who we become as adults. It’s no accident that I become a psychotherapist and an author with books like The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet and The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Aggression and Depression.

Becoming a therapist didn’t guarantee that I would magically gain the wisdom to help other people, or even be able to help myself have a joyful life. I married right out of college and we had two children. Despite our best efforts our marriage began to falter and it ended after ten years. After grieving the ending, I soon fell in love again. I was fearful of another loss, but we got married with great hope for the future. That marriage lasted three years. After the ending of my second marriage I became depressed and I began suffering from heart irregularities.

After writing another book, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, I vowed I would figure out what had gone wrong and how I could find, real lasting love. I met Carlin and we’ve now been together for 36 wonderful years. I wrote a book about what we learned, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come. I feel this is a very hopeful time for men, women, and couples, but t [Read more…]

The Hidden Causes of the Paris Killings And What We Can Do to Prevent Future Violence

Paris killingsOnce again we are shocked, sickened, and frightened as we come to grips with another mass killing. We want to do something to feel safe again and often we are told we must “fight fire with fire.”  One headline read: France vows to punish ISIS for fatal Paris attacks. We can all empathize with those who were killed and feel supportive of the citizens of Paris. We can also recognize the rage we feel towards those who are responsible for the killings.

But in order to prevent future acts of mass violence, we have to better understand who did the killing and why. There are no simple answers and, as always, it will take time to get all the facts about what went on. But here are some things we do know:

  1. Those who did the killing were young men.
  2. Each of the men had lost the will to live.

According to a November 16, 2015 article in NY Magazine, “What We Know About the Paris Attackers,” “Authorities believe that ISIS-linked extremists were behind the brutal attacks that killed 129 people and injured another 352 on Friday night in Paris, and details about the attackers and their possible accomplices are continuing to emerge.”

It may be simpler to just lump all the attackers together and call them “terrorists,” but if we want to understand them and prevent future violence it’s important to see them as real human beings. As I look at their names and ages, I wonder what their lives were like. How did they reach a point where they gave up the will to live and decided to kill others and die themselves?

Here’s what the NY Magazine writers Chas Danner and Margaret Hartmann say about the men: [Read more…]

How to Get Through Depression and Lower Your Risk of Suicide

Depression is on the rise world-wide and most of us know someone who has been seriously depressed at some time in their lives.  The World Health Organization World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative, one of the most comprehensive studies ever done, found that over 120 million people suffer with depression and it is responsible for 850,000 suicides each year.  But most people with depression don’t seek help.

Stigmatization plays an important role in not getting proper treatment. Most people in depression or even the close family members who recognize the symptoms, do not seek help, due to lack of understanding and also negative connotations associated with depression.

Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, said, “We have some highly effective treatments for depression. Unfortunately, fewer than half of the people who have depression receive the care they need. In fact in many countries this is less than 10%. This is why WHO [World Health Organization] is supporting countries in fighting stigma as a key activity to increasing access to treatment.” [Read more…]

Most People Worry About Violence: But More People Die From Suicide Than From Homicide and War Combined

Nelson Mandela spent a lot of his life confronting violence.  In the introduction to the World Report on Violence and Health he says, “The twentieth century will be remembered as a century marked by violence. It burdens us with its legacy of mass destruction, of violence inflicted on a scale never seen and never possible before in human history. Less visible, but even more widespread, is the legacy of day-to-day,individual suffering. It is the pain of children who are abused by people who should protect them, women injured or humiliated by violent partners, elderly persons maltreated by their caregivers, youths who are bullied by other youths, and people of all ages who inflict violence on themselves.”

He concludes, “No country, no city, no community is immune. But neither are we powerless against it.”  According to the World Health Organization, there are three types of violence that are all inter-related: [Read more…]

What Every Man, and Women Who Loves Them, Should Know About Suicide

Most of us don’t want to think about suicide, but it is part of the human condition.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is a major public health problem in high-income countries and is an emerging problem in low and middle-income countries.  Here are some things everyone should know:

  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the world, especially among young people.
  • Nearly one million people worldwide die by suicide each year. This corresponds to one death by suicide every 40 seconds.
  • The number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined.
  • Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years in some countries, and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 years age group.
  • These staggering figures do not include nonfatal suicide attempts which occur much more frequently than deaths by suicide.
  • For person who takes their own life, 20 will attempt suicide. [Read more…]

From Here to Eternity: Stopping Male Stress and the Epidemic of Suicides

I have a personal, as well as professional, interest in male depression and suicide.  It began with my father who was born in Jacksonville, Florida December 17, 1906.  He was one of eight children whose parents had been born in Eastern Europe and had come to the United States in the late 1800s.  From what I heard growing up, he was emotionally sensitive, artistic and talented.  He wrote stories, poetry, and put on little plays for the family.

Unlike most of his brothers and sisters who either went into business or married business men, when he was 18 my father went to New York to become an actor.  At first things looked bright.  New York in the 1920s was full of glitter and glitz, a great place to be for a young man seeking fame and fortune.  But that ended in 1929 with the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

It was in New York that he met my mother and they married on her birthday, October 5, 1934 after a somewhat stormy courtship.  Economically things were difficult, but they were together and ready to weather the storm.  When all money ran out they would invite friends and acquaintances to their small apartment and my father would put on a show—readings from Shakespeare, his own poetry, or short stories.  The price of admission was a can of food.

But as the economic situation worsened so did his mood.  He would snap at my mother.  Small things irritated him.  How she cooked, cleaned their apartment, or made the bed became points of discord.  Recalling the times, my mother told me, “He was always on edge.  I couldn’t seem to do anything right.  No matter how much I tried to support him and let him know I cared, he still got mad at me.”

There were increasingly heated arguments and fights.  He would accuse her of being interested in other men and “sleeping around.”  She would proclaim her innocence and feel hurt.  They would make up, make love, and everything would seem all right.  And they would be all right, until the next time.  There was always a next time. 

My mother was always able to find work as a secretary.  She had excellent skills and even in bad times people needed her talents and experience.  However, there weren’t a lot of people looking for my father’s skills and talents.  Not feeling comfortable at home, my father spent more and more time away.  “He’s here, then he’s gone,” my mother would say.  “Sometimes he wouldn’t come home until early the next morning.”

His brothers tried to convince them to come home to Florida and sell insurance like they were doing.  My father laughed.  “I’d rather die first.”   It was a prophetic outburst.  He nearly did die.  Most of what I know about his life I learned from my mother and the journals that he kept in the last three years before he tried to kill himself.

Kay Redfield Jamison, an expert on mood disorders, uses an analogy from the animal kingdom to describe the difference ways men and women react to the stresses of life that can lead to depression and suicide.  “Young male elephants go out and they are quite solitary,” she observed. “The only times males get together is during the breeding period in an adversarial role. They’re not talking about anything, they’re competing.

“Conversely, the female elephants are drawn together and are constantly communicating with each other.  Female elephants have a system set up if one is in distress,” she continues, “and they are more likely to be there to serve and help one another.  Like male elephants in an adversarial role, human men have an ‘irritability’ that is ‘part and parcel’ of depression,” she says.  “It’s one of the diagnostic criteria for depression and mania, more common than not,” she explained. “Emotions get so ratcheted up, it’s often we see men with short-tempered fuses. It makes depression difficult for others to be around.”

This was certainly true of my father.  He had a long history of irritability, anger, and depression, and male stress but it was the crashing economy that sent him over the edge.  Here were the last journal entries before he tried to kill himself:

“June 4th: 

               Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work,  Yes, it’s enough to make anyone, blanch, turn pale and sicken.

 “August 15th:

              Faster, faster, faster, I walk.  I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family.  I try, try, try, try, try.  I always try and never stop.

“November 8th:

              A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out.  Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried.  All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education. 

             I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in the same field I’m trying.  Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”

Six days after his November 8th entry, my father tried to kill himself.  Though he survived physically, emotionally he was never again the same.  For nearly 40 years I’ve treated more and more men who are facing similar stresses to those my father experienced.  The economic conditions and social dislocations that contributed to his feelings of shame and hopelessness continue to weigh heavily on men today.

Suicide is Predominantly a Male Response to Stress

Although suicide impacts women as well as men, it is predominantly a male response to overwhelming stress.  In my book, Male vs. Female Depression: Why Men Act Out and Women Act In I reported on a major research study that concluded “Women seek help—men die.” The study found that 75% of those who sought professional help at a suicide prevention program were female. Conversely 75% of those who committed suicide in the same year were male.

These findings are corroborated by men’s health expert, Will Courtenay, Ph.D. in his book, Dying to be Men: Psychosocial, Environmental, and Biobehavioral Directions in Promoting the Health of Men and Boys (April, 2011, Routledge). Courtenay reports the following suicide and death rates (per 100,000 U.S. population) from the National Center for Disease Control, for males and females in various age groups:

We see that the suicide rate for young men is more than 4 times the rate for young women and the suicide rate for after retirement is 6 to 17 times the rate for women of the same age. Clearly men are at great risk and as populations age throughout the world, more men are likely to give up hope and kill themselves.

Age Group

Male Rate

Female Rate

Male/Female Ratio










































The Mancession

But many men are now losing their jobs before retirement.  A recent editorial in the British Journal of Psychiatry indicates that depression rates in men are likely to increase due to the socioeconomic changes going on in the world. The study’s principle author Boadie Dunlop, M.D., from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta writes, “Compared to women, many men attach a great importance to their roles as providers and protectors of their families. Failure to fulfill the role of breadwinner is associated with greater depression and marital conflict.”

Research shows that since the beginning of the recession in 2007, roughly 75 percent of the jobs lost in the United States were held by men. On the other hand, women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners with 22 percent of wives earning more than their husbands in 2007, versus only 4 percent in 1970. Unfortunately, there is little reason for anyone to believe that traditional male jobs will return in significant numbers even if the economy fully recovers.  As depression increases, so too will suicide.

Getting Help and Support

The International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP) has designated September 10, 2012, World Suicide Prevention Day.  On their site you can get good information on what people are doing all over the world to prevent suicide and you can learn what you can do to support their activities.  In support of these activities I’m offering  my new book, MenAlive: Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, which details my own experiences helping people deal with depression in their lives.  For everyone who orders a book by September 10, 2012, I will donate 50% of the profits to IASP.  For everyone who orders anytime during the month of September, I’ll donate 30% of the profits to IASP.

Working together we can make a difference.  If you’d like to be part of our campaign to save the lives of a million men, and to learn how to stop male stress you can learn more HERE.

What has been your experience with male suicide?  What resources do you have to share?  Together we heal.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/helzerman/1234587061/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Men and Stress – Is Your Job Driving You Over the Edge?

We know that depression is on the rise all over the world and men are 4 to 18 times (depending on age) more likely to commit suicide than are women.  People report that job stresses are a major factor that can lead to depression and increased suicide risk.  We know that men and stress can be a lethal mix.  What are the professions that put you at highest risk?  According to a recent report from Business Insider, based on statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health the top ten jobs where you’re most likely to kill yourself are:

#10  Real Estate Sales

Real estate agents are 1.38 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#9  Potters and “hand-molders”

Hand molders are 1.39 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#8  Urban planners

Urban planners are 1.43 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#7  Supervisors of heavy construction equipment

Supervisors of heavy construction equipment are 1.46 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#6  Chiropractors

Chiropractors are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#5  Finance workers

Finance workers are 1.51 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#4  Veterinarians

Veterinarians are 1.54 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#3  Dentists

Dentists are 1.67 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#2  Physicians

Physicians are 1.87 times more likely to commit suicide average.

#1 Marine Engineers

Marine engineers are 1.89 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

Other high risk professions include:  Pharmacists, Farm Managers, and Lawyers.  What do all these “high suicide” professions have in common?  I’d suggest that most of them involve people who must deal with other people’s problems in situations where they don’t get a lot of positive feedback and appreciation.  When’s the last time you thanked your dentist or gave him a hug after he finished drilling and filling?

Of course, being employed can be stressful, but being unemployed can be even more stressful.  According to an article in The Washington Independent, “The unemployed commit suicide at a rate two or three times the national average, researchers estimate. And in many cases, the longer the spell of unemployment, the higher the likelihood of suicide.”

So, if you’re employed, what are the things that are the most stressful and make you feel depressed?  If you’re unemployed, what makes you feel the worst about yourself?

Maybe by sharing our experiences, we can help each other get through these difficult times.

For more information suicide prevention and men’s health, look for my new book MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools.

Another post that you may find value in is 3 Little Known Stressors that are Killing Men and the Women Who Love Them.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/badjonni/403366211/lightbox/

Boomer Men, Stress, Depression, Anger and Suicide

In a recent interview with Brent Green, author of Generation Reinvention: How Boomers Today Are Changing Business, Marketing, Aging and the Future, he and I provide an in-depth, up-to-date look at the work I’ve been doing to help men, and the women to love them, to live well throughout our lives.  Specifically we get into detail about baby boomer men and stress, male depression, male anger, and suicide.

You’ll learn about what motivated me to write my recent book, MenAlive: Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, and why I’ve committed myself to helping save the lives of a million males over the next three years. This is a unique opportunity to join me in exploring some of the most important issues we face in our lives today.

Click here to listen:  Boomer Men and Stress

Enjoy the interview and thanks to WeEarth Global Radio Network.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulcross/5819125499/sizes/z/in/photostream/