On Mental Health and Suicide among Young Professionals

I read this devastating, but brilliant profile on the drastic increase in suicide rates among female physicians in New York. I will be honest: I did not read everything. But it was familiar. See here and here on suicide among graduate students and the awful cost of getting a Ph.D. no one is talking about. Almost half of graduate students suffer from depression. See also this and this on suicide among academics.

In the first article that's linked above, we are told the doctors in that hospital sometimes work over 100 hours a week! Can you imagine that? The person who is supposed to cut into human beings and heal them is probably suffering from lack of sleep. I shudder just thinking about that. The most painful thing was her suicide, of course. But a close second was the hospital's handling of her death and the impersonal way it was treated.

You know what though? It's proof and reason to survive, to live, to thrive. I do not care who you are, if you die today, the world WILL continue. No one is irreplaceable. Yes, that job you want to die for? They will replace you in a heartbeat. That's life for you. Why then do we take one thing and make it our all, so much that we forget to take care of ourselves? There is a particularly insane culture in America, to brag over how you never get sleep and/or how you work more than 80 hours a week. Does that make any sense? Very recently, a bunch of academics were discussing their work hours on Twitter when a professor said if those of us just starting out are not doing minimum of 80 hours/week, we can kiss our careers goodbye. Immediately, another professor at Oxford responded it was bull. She had just gotten a tenure track position and does not work more than 50 hours. Don't listen to him, she said. Pace yourself and work reasonably, but smartly to meet your institutional demands.

Sigh. Thank God.

Not for either of them, but for God. I am so thankful for my spiritual strength and constant reminder in the Bible that God brought me where I am today, he will continually guide me and lead me on.  I am thankful for constant reminders that my efforts are just that: efforts. That while I must be diligent in my work, it's not by my strength or power, but by his grace. I'm thankful that I am often reminded that this is not my ALL. It's a part of me.  I'm also thankful for my support system. All that being said, I pay attention.

Pay attention to yourself. Within the past year I have heard of two people in their twenties/thirties who just slumped...and died. Another was rushed to the ER with extremely low blood pressure, and would have died but for quick medical response. And work is not the only trigger for mental or even physical health challenges. Life can be a lot sometimes. So know when to step back and when to get help. When our cars are faulty, we know to fix it. But our mental health always takes a back seat. Why? Perhaps it's how we have been socially conditioned? Seriously, take care of yourself, whatever that means. For most people, it means taking time to shut it all off. It may also mean not taking criticisms personally. If they disparage your work: it is your work that is being disparaged, NOT you. Draw a line between your work and your life (or other aspects of your life). Set important boundaries and keep at it. I'm not naive: not everyone can afford to do this, but there has to be one action you can take to better take care of yourself; to take care of your mental health.

It's even more worrisome because millennials apparently have it worse than any other generation in 50 years.  We are constantly told our efforts are not enough; that we are not enough. The world is moving at a faster pace than anyone can comprehend. And of course, the world has been set up to pit us against each other and compare lives, successes, and failures.

Ignore it.

Toke Makinwa said something on Twitter. Remember this, because this is probably the only time I'll ever actually reference (for good) something she said. Anyway, she said, when you realize how quickly the memory of the dead is forgotten, that's when you will start living to please no one.

The second part of this post will dwell much more on this and on living YOUR own life and running your race.

Have a great week,


No comments