‘It Starts With Each of Us.’ How You Can Help Coworkers During National Suicide Awareness Month

September 17 marks the day of National Physician Suicide Awareness. This day is a reminder of the toll that suicide has upon our peers.

The numbers are sobering, every year nearly 400 physicians die by suicide, or approximately one per
day. Male physicians are 1.41 times greater risk while female physicians are at 2.27 times greater risk for suicide.

At CommonSpirit Health, we are committed to the well-being of our physicians and advanced practice providers (APPs). For us, this day is a remembrance and call-to-action, each of us as a leader, team member, and colleague can help prevent suicide among our physicians and APPs.

Over the past year, the Physician Enterprise has launched dedicated groups to develop programs focused on optimizing clinical care delivery, building a sense of community, and peer support training. We are exploring ways to extend these learnings to our independent physicians and APP colleagues. In addition, Dr. Wiebe launched the National Physician Engagement Council with specific initiatives focused on well-being and professional fulfillment across each division.

Most notably the Physician Enterprise and National Physician Engagement Council partnered with Medical Staff leadership across CommonSpirit to remove barriers and stigmatizing language from credentialing applications across our ministry for physicians, APPs, and Allied Health Professions (AHPs).

The updated language states:

“Because we value the importance of well-being, appropriate treatment and support for all health conditions, we have provided a list of resources at the end of this application. Do you have any health condition which would, in any way, compromise your ability to perform the essential functions of the position and/or privileges for which your qualifications are being evaluated in accordance with accepted standards of professional performance, with or without reasonable accommodations? If you
answer yes, please tell us what accommodation has been made.”

This change in language is in line with best practices as per the Federation of State Medical Boards, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, American College of Physicians, and Dr. Lorna Breen Foundation. This language also exists in several state medical licensing applications, including about half of those within the CommonSpirit Health ministry. The change will be seen on a rolling basis as more facilities are brought into the single CommonSpirit Credentialing Application.

Next Steps/Resources for You:

Research has consistently shown that informed actions and steps can be taken to raise awareness and prevent suicide. These steps include learning the “vital signs” of colleagues at-risk, starting the conversations, understanding the barriers, and sharing the resources that can help those in distress seek mental health care.


For leaders: Learn the Vital Signs, Conversation Starters, Understanding the Barriers to Access Help

These toolkits are an important leadership step in reviewing how to prepare team actions and protocols in the event of an attempted or completed suicide. These are resources have been provided the American Federation for Suicide Prevention, American Medical Association, and Mayo Clinic.

For individuals: Learn the Vital Signs, Personal Crisis Management Plan

We hope you will join us by reviewing these resources and engaging in “starter” conversations. Together, we can build bridges to a system that supports the well-being of our physicians and APPs and is willing to help them seek mental health care.

It starts with each of us. If you know someone in crisis, please call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 9-8-8. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). Both services provide 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.