Minnesota Doctors Remember, Calls For Change Renewed On The Eve Of Physician Suicide Awareness Day

Butler was a radiologist and the mother of three young children.

“She was an amazing woman and a shining star who passed away too soon,” Chestovich said.

As she struggles with grief, Shestovich said her family also struggled to answer the question “Why?”

“What I want people to realize is that it can and does happen and we all need to take care of ourselves and take care of our colleagues,” she said. “We have to learn to support each other and talk about it. My new frequent phrase is “It’s good not to be well.” We need to normalize that life is tough and it’s okay to ask for help and ask the tough questions. “

It is estimated that each year 300 to 400 physicians die by suicide nationwide, according to the Board of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine. The rate is more than double that of the general public.

Female physicians are more than twice as likely to die of death as the general public.

Just months after Butler’s death, the Twin Cities lost another young doctor and mother. Dr Radhika Snyder ended her life in July.

“We are seeing a huge tipping point right now,” said Shireen Sakizadeh McConnell, founder of MN Mental Health Advocates.

She has helped doctors, nurses and others on the ground access mental health support during the pandemic.

“The burnout of doctors and health care, mental health, that has always been a problem even before the pandemic,” she said. “I think what we’re seeing is that the pandemic was kind of the last straw. […] Wave after wave of care for some of the most critically ill patients any provider, any healthcare worker has ever seen in their career and then seen death on a level and frequency never seen before. “

Throughout the pandemic, increasing numbers of healthcare workers have reached out to his organization. His team then creates a list of mental health services that are covered by that person’s insurance.

Doctors, nurses, and others working in the industry can call 651-321-2340, email, or message his organization on social media to get started.

“It’s more than burnout, it’s more than compassion fatigue,” she said of the calls she receives. “It’s trauma, and it’s not lasting.”

Sakizadeh McConnell understands that trauma can take a long time, especially when it comes to the endless schedule of so many healthcare workers.

She experienced significant trauma at work several years ago while working as a nurse. Sakizadeh McConnell was diagnosed with PTSD, but said she was unable to reduce her workload due to staff issues.

“I’m really lucky to be alive,” she said. “I could have been Gretchen. I could have been Radhika and I’m so overwhelmed sometimes when I make these intakes and talk to them because I can hear it in their voice – I know exactly what they are feeling.

Sakizadeh McConnell created his organization to support others in times of crisis.

“I think we need to change the culture of healthcare and that starts with giving people permission, giving them a safe space to tell their stories,” she said.

Dr. Kellie Lease Stecher joins her in this work. She founded the Patient Care Heroes organization during the pandemic, which is a platform for telling these stories.

“The most important thing I wanted people to realize was this: we are human,” said Dr. Lease Stecher. “Everyone thinks doctors and nurses are superhuman, and the toll is obviously pretty big. “

She also wanted to create a space for doctors and other health professionals to access mental health resources without stress.

“I wanted to make sure we had a safe haven for people,” Stecher said. “I wanted to make sure that we could provide them with resources where they didn’t feel like their license or were in danger because often times people fall into that dark place, and even contemplate suicide when they feel like their careers. is in danger.

In Minnesota, the Board of Medical Practices asked about a doctor’s mental health history when applying for or renewing his license. The board approved language changes at a September 11 meeting that will remove the word “mental” from the question. Instead, doctors will be asked if they have “a condition that is not being treated appropriately” that could interfere with their ability to do their job.

Board executive director Ruth Martinez told us the board plans to “continue engaging in future conversations on possible additional amendments.”

Stecher hopes there will be further progress.

“Fortunately, we are changing some of that language, however, the stigma surrounding mental health persists,” she said.

She urges healthcare workers to seek help if they need it.

“There is no career in a world that is worth risking your life. If you have to quit medicine, quit medicine,” Stecher said. “If you have to take time off, take time off. If you have a therapist that you are pretty cool with, you have to find someone you really love. If you are a pregnant woman with problems, then postpartum anxiety, depression, you have to find someone you can talk to about these things, but there is literally nothing worth putting your personal safety at risk.

On Capitol Hill, they called for systemic change. Chestovich urges health care providers to put limits on work hours and build mental health supports into employee programs.

“My dear sister Gretchen keep whispering in my ear, keep talking, we need to make some changes,” she said.

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