Dr. Katherine J. Gold, assistant professor of family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School, said doctors who commit suicide appear to be under-treated for mental health problems, despite their seemingly good access to healthcare.
Although more physicians than non-physicians in the study had known mental health problems prior to suicide and physicians might have a higher-than-average suicide rate, this didn't translate into a higher rate of anti-depressant use, said Gold, the study's lead author.
The study, published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, found physicians who committed suicide were much more likely to have had potentially lethal prescription medications in their system -- but not medication prescribed for depression. Major depression is a known risk factor for suicide, particularly for female physicians, the study said.
"Even though this population presumably has very good access to healthcare, it doesn't appear that they're getting adequate treatment," Gold said in a statement. "I think stigma about mental health is a huge part of the story. There is a belief that physicians should be able to avoid depression or just 'get over it' by themselves."