This Much I Know

August 12, 2018
by Mark David Siegel

Hello everyone,

We lost another young physician in to suicide last week, a resident in a program in California.   

I don’t understand her death any more than I understand the long procession of tragedies preceding hers.  Was it work stress?  Home stress?  Mental illness?  Loneliness?  Sleep deprivation?  Did she lose a patient?  Was there a complication?  An error?  Did someone blame her?  Did she blame herself?  Who knows?  I don’t.  

But this much I do know.  We must work to keep each other safe.  Make it easy to get help.  Remember that calm exteriors can hide inner turmoil.  We should normalize stress by discussing our own.  Acknowledge that we’ve all lost patients, made mistakes, doubted our abilities, felt overwhelmed, and worried that we don’t belong.  I know.  I've been there.    

We must treat each other like family, especially during residency.  Family gives us a shared purpose, knowledge that we belong, and confidence to face daunting challenges.  Like parents and siblings, our residency family is steadfast; we walk together, talk, laugh, and, when necessary, commiserate.  

I’m grateful that Jadry shared her message of love and hope with us last week, and that she and Sloane were quickly surrounded and embraced by the residency community.  In the wake of this tragedy, I learned that several of our residents have volunteered for the hospital’s Call-a-Friend program (see attached); they’re available for anyone who needs to talk, as are program leadership, the Chiefs, the GME Office, and your MACs.  

As a family we must care for one another.  Under Mike and Lindsay’s leadership, exciting wellness activities are being planned. Thanks to Ama and Yuki, Reflection Rounds are being resurrected.  On Tuesday nights, the Beeson Bombers are blowing out opponents on the softball field, and having fun anyway, even when they lose.  Most importantly, residents spend time with each other, share meals, hike, run, or just hang out.  Supporting one another makes it easier for us to care for ourselves, to eat, sleep, and exercise.  That’s exactly what we need.   

When tragedies happen, we must double our support for friends and colleagues.  We must share the work when fatigue sets in so burdens don’t overwhelm us.  We must commit ourselves to kindness and patience, and use all our resources, both formal and informal, to keep everyone well.  We need to check in with each other.  If you’re worried about someone, speak up.  If you need help, ask for it.  

Our residency family is warmed by sunlight that illuminates the sky, even on the gloomiest days. This truth reassures me and fills me with hope and comfort.  Indeed, the residency’s light brightens us all, spreading warmth, courage, and optimism as we face the future together.  In the wake of sadness and uncertainty, I am grateful for the gift of our residency family.  This much I know for sure.  

In solidarity (and back to my wonderful Fitkin team),

Mark  

PS A Resource Reminder:  

Employee and Family Resource Program – Brochure attached.  There are two onsite counselors that work here at 836 Howard Avenue across from the Adult ED and many licensed counselors are available throughout CT.  Most people choose face-to-face counseling but there is also phone and video counseling available.   1-877-275-6226  

Chaplain Services Office (8 AM – 4 PM) 203-688-2151; if no answer or off hours, use Chaplain on call pager: 187 then 12651 – also available through Smartweb  

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Submitted by Mark David Siegel on August 12, 2018