September is National Suicide Awareness month. With this last day of the month, I want to bring awareness to this heartbreaking issue.
You might be thinking: how does this relate to Mothers in Medicine? Unfortunately, it's a topic that has impacted me.
Most of you will remember Superstorm Sandy, right? Well, not only did it destroy billions of dollars in property...it destroyed lives, too. My cousin (we'll call him Bill) was living in NYC, had 2 kids and a wife, had a couple of businesses that seemed to be going well. Then the storm hit--Bill lost several properties and his car to the flooding. His wife left him, and she took the kids. He was despondent. Little did I know at the time that Bill was also abusing alcohol. He even tried to get help from a counselor.
Bill moved in with my aunt and uncle, living in their basement, until he could get back on his feet. One day my uncle came home from work to find that his son, my cousin, had committed suicide. My dad went to be with the family and had to identify the body in the morgue. Bill's suicide was the most devastating event in our family's recent history.
Since Bill's death, his parents have struggled with all the stages of grief, as one can imagine. Now three years hence his mother is ravaged with anxiety. It's hard for me to conceive of anything more tragic than losing your child. And losing them to suicide: a potentially preventable cause. Well, that's the kicker.
As a mother and a doctor, I think it's in my nature to be concerned about the welfare of others. I mean, that's part of those jobs, right? But since Bill's death, I really try to listen *intently* to the answer when I ask someone, "How are you doing?" I try to read the body language. But despite our best efforts as mothers, doctors, friends, etc. I am sure we miss the subtle hints of people who feel they are on the precipice, without hope to carry on. When I see people I know or patients I see with depression, I am insistent that they get treated. I impress upon our housestaff the importance of treating depression, for it affects a person's self-management of their other comorbid conditions.
So to our community of mothers in medicine: we must try to reach out to others, lend an empathetic ear, connect people with medications, counseling, other treatments for depression. Let us work to prevent losing more of our children, our loved ones, our colleagues, our neighbors to suicide.