Learn the Warning Signs of Physician Suicide
By Amy Lynn Sorrel

This Saturday, Sept. 17, is National Physician Suicide Awareness (NPSA) Day, and with help from The Physicians Foundation and other organizations’ Vital Signs campaign, you can learn the warning signals to look for in a colleague who may be in mental distress.  

A problem long before the COVID-19 pandemic and certainly exacerbated by it, physicians have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession, and more than half of physicians know a physician who has either considered, attempted, or died by suicide, according to the campaign. 

The Physicians Foundation – along with the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation, First Responders First, and dozens of state and national supporting organizations that include the Texas Medical Association –  seeks to make NPSA Day a “call to action that it is time to talk – and to act – so physicians’ struggles do not become mental health emergencies.” 

Here are five signs to look for, easily remembered by the acronym HEART:  

  • Health: Increasing the use of medications and/or alcohol or illicit drugs; talking about wanting to hurt themselves or die; 
  • Emotions: Experiencing extreme mood swings; feeling hopeless or having no purpose; 
  • Attitude: Being negative about professional and personal life; having inappropriate outbursts of anger or sadness; 
  • Relationships: Withdrawing or isolating themselves from family, friends, and coworkers; talking about being a burden to others; and 
  • Temperament: Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly; being uncomfortable, tired, or in unbearable pain. 

More resources are available on the NPSA Day website, including a toolkit with guides and shareable materials for how to participate in physician suicide awareness and spread the word.  

And be sure to check out TMA’s CME courses (free for members), plus other resources aimed at suicide prevention and helping physicians better deal with stressors. 

Last Updated On

September 13, 2022

Originally Published On

September 13, 2022

Related Content


Amy Lynn Sorrel

Associate Vice President, Editorial Strategy & Programming
Division of Communications and Marketing

(512) 370-1384
Amy Sorrel

Amy Lynn Sorrel has covered health care policy for nearly 20 years. She got her start in Chicago after earning her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and went on to cover health care as an award-winning writer for the American Medical Association, and as an associate editor and managing editor at TMA. Amy is also passionate about health in general as a cancer survivor, avid athlete, traveler, and cook. She grew up in California and now lives in Austin with her Aggie husband and daughter.

More stories by Amy Sorrel