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‘Study suicides among medical professionals’

- July 1, 2022

Dileep V Kumar, Thiruvananthapuram, July 1

As the state is celebrating National Doctors Day with a range of programmes, a section of the doctor community has come out with an interesting demand. They want a study regarding suicide among medical professionals including students and trainee doctors in the state.

According to them, the Covid-19 pandemic has placed extreme demands on healthcare workers and it will be worth exploring whether the burnout caused by it has affected their mental health condition.

It is suggested that the state chapter of the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) in collaboration with the state chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) could spearhead the data collection drive.

“Reports of physician suicides during and after the COVID pandemic have surfaced across the world. The same is the case in India. Several causes have been highlighted including work-related stress, risk of getting infected and transmitting the infection to near and dear ones, stigma, burnout, and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said a psychiatrist at Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram.

According to the psychiatrist, as the government records including the data maintained by the State Crime Records Bureau overlook suicides among medical professionals a parallel data collection is the need of the hour.

Earlier, the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, the official publication of the IPS, had commented in its editorial that medical professionals are at a higher risk of suicide than the general population. Citing news reports and published research papers, it highlights that between 2010 and 2019, 358 suicides occurred at the national level and of this, 70% occurred before the age of 30 years. Also, 26 percent had shown warning signs before the act. Another Indian study reported 30 suicidal deaths between 2016 and 2019, 80 percent of which occurred in those younger than 40 years. Anesthesiology as a specialty had the highest number of victims in both studies. Academic stress, marital discord, and mental health problems (mainly depression) were reported as the most important causes.

In Kerala, one of the most discussed suicides among medical professionals in recent times was that of the death of 35-year-old Dr Anoop Krishna, an orthopedic surgeon in 2020.