Here’s a statistic to think about: During any given year, almost seven percent of physicians report suicidal ideation or impulses (as reported by corporatewellnessmagazine.com). While there are many reasons that contribute to this thinking, thoughts of suicide are often exacerbated by the use of substances like drugs and alcohol. This puts healthcare professionals who abuse these substances at greater risk of actually committing the act.
How Does Substance Abuse Contribute to Suicide?
When substances like drugs and alcohol are consumed, normal brain chemistry is affected.
As discussed in a publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, people with substance use disorders and suicidal ideations have an elevated risk of impulsively attempting suicide.
Furthermore, studies indicate that those with alcohol use disorders are 10 times more likely than the general population to commit suicide, and those who use other substances are 14 times more likely. Additionally, 22% of suicidal deaths involved alcohol intoxication, 20% involved opiates, 10.2% involved marijuana, 4.6% involved cocaine and 3.4% involved amphetamines.
September Is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month
As a health care professional, you’ll see many resources over the next 30 days addressing suicide, including how to get help in a crisis situation. The three-digit, nationwide phone number – 988 – connects individuals directly to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to talk with compassionate counselors in confidence. Calling 911 or contacting the emergency department in your city are other immediate ways to get help in a crisis situation.
“So much is at stake if a health care professional’s substance use addiction is found out,” said Terry Coleman, manager of clinical services with the Best Care Employee Assistance Program (EAP). “Their professional reputation, personal character and trustworthiness are at stake, and they feel the only way out to avoid humiliation is to take their own life. But suicide isn’t the answer. Talking to a mental health professional is the best way to get help.”
If you or a health care professional you know is experiencing an alcohol or substance use disorder and having thoughts of suicide, it’s crucial to seek support immediately and begin an honest, nonjudgmental and confidential conversation with a counselor. Please reach out to the Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program (NE LAP) at (800) 851-2336 or (402) 354-8055 to begin the recovery process.
Michelle Hruska, LIMHP, LADC
NE LAP Coordinator
Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program
9239 West Center Road, Suite 201
Omaha, NE 68124-1900