American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes


Mental Health Awareness Month: Mental Health and Suicide

52 percent of Americans have tried to “grin and bear it” instead of seeing a health care professional when feeling depressed or mentally unstable. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people 10 to 34 years of age, and is the tenth leading cause of death overall in the U.S. The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35 percent since 1999. Anxiety disorders and major depression are two of the most common mental illnesses, with 42.5 million adults and 3.1 million adults affected\, respectively. 12 million adults are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, and 9.8 million adults experience suicidal thoughts. 

Suicide is a disproportionate cause of death for U.S physicians. Few surgeons seek psychological help.1 Physicians who die by suicide usually have an untreated or undertreated mental illness, such as depression. There is a stigma around mental health and seeking help.2 Nearly one in four physicians know a physician who has committed suicide. Some of the most common diagnoses for physicians who die by suicide are mood disorders, alcoholism and substance use. One study showed that depression affects an estimated 12 percent of male doctors and up to 19.5 percent of female doctors. Depression is more common in medical students and residents, with about 15 percent to 30 percent having symptoms.3

Suicide prevention begins with understanding the warning signs to look for in someone or yourself who may be suicidal. If you or someone you know is experiencing feelings and/or thoughts of suicide remember—you are not alone. 

Resources, Support, and Tools




  1. Shanafelt TD, Balch CM, Dyrbye L, et al. Special report: Suicidal ideation among American surgeons. Arch Surg. 2011;146(1):54-62. 
  2. The Physicians Foundation. Vital signs. Available at: Accessed May 10, 2021
  3. Anderson P. Doctors' suicide rate highest of any profession. eMedicineHealth. May 8, 2018. Available at: Accessed May 6, 2021.