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Health Professional Suicide

Recent media attention has focused on mental illness and physician burnout.

Milner et al report a retrospective mortality study of health professional suicide in Australia 2001 to 2012. The authors suggest a targeted approach to suicide prevention is warranted. The Lancet has recently published a call to action for suicide prevention in health workers.



To report age-standardised rates and methods of suicide by health professionals, and to compare these with suicide rates for other occupations.

Study design:

Retrospective mortality study.

Setting, participants:

All intentional self-harm cases recorded by the National Coronial Information System during the period 2001e2012 were initially included. Cases were excluded if the person was unemployed at the time of death, if their employment status was unknown or occupational information was missing, or if they were under 20 years of age at the time of death. Suicide rates were calculated using Australian Bureau of Statistics population-level data from the 2006 census.
Main outcome measures: Suicide rates and method of suicide by occupational group.


Suicide rates for female health professionals were higher than for women in other occupations (medical practitioners: incidence rate ratio [IRR], 2.52; 95% CI, 1.55e4.09; P<0.001; nurses and midwives: IRR, 2.65; 95% CI, 2.22e3.15;
P<0.001). Suicide rates for male medical practitioners were not significantly higher than for other occupations, but the suicide rate for male nurses and midwives was significantly higher than for men working outside the health professions (IRR, 1.50; 95% CI 1.12e2.01; P¼0.006). The suicide rate for health
professionals with ready access to prescription medications was higher than for those in health professions without such access or in non-health professional occupations. The mostfrequent method of suicide used by health professionals was


Our results indicate the need for targeted prevention of suicide by health professionals.



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