April 9, 2014

Suicide in the white professional class

You can not underestimate the importance of family and friends in having a good and happy life.    This is especially true for professional men.

When Bankers and Physicians Commit Suicide

Apparently, the media finds stories about Wall Street bankers killing themselves to be compelling. The prevalent narrative suggests that big, bad bankers are so troubled by their oppressive practices that they cannot live with themselves.  Sally Satel effectively debunked this story in a recent column. In truth, doctors and lawyers are more likely to commit suicide than are finance professionals.

White privilege notwithstanding, white males are three times more likely to commit suicide than are blacks and twice as likely as Hispanics and Asians. Moreover, they are four times more likely than females to commit suicide. Thus, bankers belong to a cohort that is more inclined to commit suicide.
The problem is not new. It has been extensively researched. One report defined some of the problems that beset physicians:

Many of the risk factors for suicide in physicians correspond to risk factors in the general population. Suicide rates have been found to be higher among physicians who are divorced, widowed, or never married. The high-risk physician has been described as driven, competitive, compulsive, individualistic, ambitious, and often a graduate of a high-prestige school. He often has mood swings, a problem with alcohol or other drugs, and sometimes a non- life-threatening but annoying physical illness.
The report adds that physicians often have a great deal of difficulty forgiving themselves for mistakes. In part, it must have something to do with the influence of malpractice laws, but one suspects that a breakdown in camaraderie also contributes:
If physicians lack a sense of belonging to a group, of being part of an honorable profession, of enjoying camaraderie with other physicians, clearly this psycho-social factor creates anomie and fosters depression.

One suspects that the same problem exists in other professions, where  people used to be able to work together but where they now believe that they are working against each other.

Another recent example  is Roy Cullen, long-time president of the Cullen Foundation, Houston's most well-known charitable foundation which gave millions in 2013 who shot himself dead in a locked bedroom in  his family mansion two days ago.

Posted by Jill Fallon at April 9, 2014 3:55 PM | Permalink