Does "relieving colleagues of this responsibility" mean that "when a physician attempts suicide, his colleagues have responsibility to offer help; and now, this physician health program helps to relieve this responsibility"?
N Engl J Med 2005
In her Perspective article concerning physician suicide, Schernhammer (June 16 issue)1 states that “there are few interventions in place to help prevent suicide among physicians.” In fact, there are organized physician health programs currently available in virtually every area of the country. Many are branches of state medical societies, some are loosely affiliated with licensing boards, and a few are independent. Although originally these programs dealt primarily with issues of substance abuse, now to varying degrees they also involve the treatment of physicians with depression, disruptive behavior, and other problems. Such programs offer confidential treatment (consistent with state laws) and support over extended periods. To the extent that suicidal behavior or associated symptoms such as substance abuse, depression, or signs of excessive stress can be identified, help is available. A physician health program
will intervene, rapidly if necessary, and offer treatment, relieving colleagues of this responsibility
. Recognition of early warning signs and prompt referral to the local program for help may prevent the ultimate tragedy of suicide.