To address physician depression and suicide at one U.S. medical school, a faculty committee launched a Suicide Prevention and Depression Awareness Program in 2009 whose focus is medical students', residents', and faculty physicians' mental health. The program consists of a two-pronged approach: (1) screening, assessment, and referral and (2) education. The screening process is anonymous, confidential, and Web based, using customized software created by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The educational component consists of a medical-school-wide campaign including Grand Rounds on physician burnout, depression, and suicide as well as similar sessions geared toward trainees. The authors document the process of developing and implementing the program, including the program's origins and goals, their critical decision-making processes, and successes and challenges of the program's first year.
Of the 2,860 medical students, housestaff, and faculty who received the e-mail invitation in the first year, 374 individuals (13%) completed screens, 101/374 (27%) met criteria for significant risk for depression or suicide, and 48/374 (13%) received referrals for mental health evaluation and treatment. The program provided 29 Grand Rounds and other presentations during the first year.
This may be the first program that aims to increase awareness of depression and to destigmatize help-seeking in order to prevent suicide and whose target population includes the full panoply of medical school constituents: students, residents, and faculty physicians. The program was well received in its first year, and while demonstrating the prevention of suicides is difficult, the authors are encouraged by the program's results thus far.