Medical students raise awareness for high physician suicide rates


Brittany Fields never considered the dangers of suicide until she saw the toll depression took on her peers.

The second year student at the Central Michigan University College of Medicine is a co-leader of the public health and health policy student interest group.

Fields organized a committee of nine second year medical students, including herself. The group reached out to Michigan medical schools to create a statewide campaign to raise awareness for suicide in the medical field. 

Together, they will deliver the weeklong series, "Behind the White Coat: Med Student and Physician Suicide Awareness and Prevention week," beginning at 8 a.m. from Feb. 27- March 4. in CMED building Room 2403. 

“The main purpose of the event is to bring awareness to physician and medical student suicide,” said Indiana native Joseph Nowatzke. “This subset of the population has a higher rate of suicide than the average population. It is something that most people are not aware of.”

Depression affects 27-29 percent of medical students and about 400 physicians commit suicide each year, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

“We thought since we are medical students and becoming physicians, (we should) do something because no one else was really doing anything besides reporting on it," Fields said.

The committee reached out to medical schools at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and Michigan State University.

“It is really turning into a very beautiful, collaborative thing as we have multiple medical schools getting involved," said Saginaw committee member Brad Demijohn. 

Demijohn said there is a stigma hovering over physicians about mental illness and it is frowned upon for caretakers to exhibit weakness in a hospital setting. 

For Fields, the stigma comes from a competitive lifestyle, where it is medical students and physicians are expected to demonstrate perfectionism and academic success over their peers.

“We have bought into this idea that we are supposed to be superhuman, so there is no room for fallacy, mental illness or anything less than perfection,” Fields said.

The opening event will include a personal testimony from first year medical student Maryssa Lyons. The Freeland native is scheduled to share her personal experiences with depression.

The series will conclude Saturday, March 4 at the Michigan State University Union in East Lansing. The College of Medicine will be meeting at 11:00 am with the collaborating medical schools for a regional conference.

Anyone seeking help for depression or suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


About Samantha Shriber

Samantha Shriber is a staff reporter at Central Michigan Life and is a Saint Clair Shores ...

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