Tag Archives: dr felix torres

Death of a Doctor – Another Victim of Cyber Bullying?

The death of Puerto Rican doctor Gloria Ortiz González is an unfortunate reminder of the power of social media, cyber bullying, the poor conditions of a public health system affecting both patients and their providers, the level of stress and the need for attention to the emotional well-being of healthcare workers, the Hippocratic Oath, and the doctrine “primum non nocere” (“first do no harm”).

Dr. Ortiz González gained notoriety and grew in infamy after a verbal altercation with patients in the emergency room waiting area of Bayamon Regional Hospital in Puerto Rico was recorded on a mobile phone and uploaded to social networks in August 2014. In the video, which clearly begins in the middle of the discussion and does not show the preceding interactions, a patient who is off camera can be heard instigating the physician to the point that she loses her composure and uses language like:

  • “And you’re ignorant, read a goddamn newspaper.”
  • “Who pays for “la reforma de la salud” [Puerto Rican Medicaid] in this country? I do with my taxes.”
  • “Damn it. I have busted myself studying me in the damn Medical Sciences Campus to have to come here and deal with you.”
  • “Bunch of ignorants.”
  • “That is why this country is a mess because what you do is listen to Daddy Yankee. Pick up a goddamn book you ignorant. Pick up a goddamn book.”

The life of Dr. Ortiz González took a huge turn after the video went viral. The doctor was suspended from duty and investigated by the Department of Health of Puerto Rico; an investigation which ceased once she resigned. Although she would later be exonerated of any wrongdoing by the Office of the Advocate for the Patient, the degree of personal harassment and devastating cyber bullying on social media were inescapable.

Even the world famous reggaeton singer Daddy Yankee countered in social networks and through the song “Palabras con Sentido” [“Words with Meaning”], the video of which recreates the moment when the doctor’s outburst was recorded in the waiting room. A young doctor who, in a moment of frustration, lashed out at her patients, whom she swore to treat with “warmth, sympathy and understanding.” A doctor who fell victim to persecution and cyber attacks, chasing her out of her home, affecting her mental health, and possibly contributing to her death.

Although Dr. Ortiz González’s behavior in that moment of anger was unacceptable and unprofessional, we must remember that we are all human and the burnout caused by poor working conditions in a crowded health system marred by inefficiencies, poor pay, and little appreciation, have their weight. While I do not excuse her conduct, as a medical student who walked the floors and hallways of that same regional hospital in Puerto Rico, I understand how difficult it can sometimes be to remain composed under so much pressure.

Now, we should reflect on the impact of the news of her death, the emotional footprint carved out by harassment, and the rampant use of social media to perpetuate a persecution by anonymous abusers behind a keyboard. Many people have fallen victim to this cyber hunt. Harassment, both in person and through social networks, can have lifetime effects on the victim’s personality. The power of demoralization is monumental and erodes at the victim’s self-worth. Anxiety, depression, suicides, and murders. When will it all end?

I hope the death of Dr. Gloria Ortiz González has not been in vain and makes us think twice before casting our hatred on social media, considering the irreversible damage that we may cause.

Rest in Peace, Doctora!

Remember…

Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Healthy. Be Strong.

Until next time!

Dr. Felix

Suicide: Faces We See, Hearts We Cannot Know…1

The recent suicide of actor Robin Williams is a tragic reminder of one of our society’s epidemics. Many have been left wondering, “How can such a talented and funny man end his life?” Robin Williams’ struggles with substance use and mental illness may have been public but, like many people around the world, his private turmoil and demons won the battle.

According to the latest data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide represented the tenth leading cause of death in the United States in 2011. If this were not alarming enough, suicide was the second leading cause of death among our teenagers and young adults (ages 15 to 34).

Recognition of warning signs, early prevention, and immediate assistance for anyone who expresses thoughts of suicide or attempts suicide are of great importance.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE WARNING SIGNS?

Many warning signs for suicidal behavior are similar to symptoms of depression:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Behavioral changes
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable or enjoyable activities
  • Poor hygiene
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Giving away or throwing out objects of personal value
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Talk/verbal threats of suicide
  • Suddenly recovering from a period of depression (maybe after having decided to put an end to their suffering by ending their life)
Even in the presence of all these warning signs, it is extremely difficult to predict with certainty who will attempt suicide. We do know that the most important risk factor for the prediction of suicide is past suicidal behavior. In other words, a past suicide attempt is the best predictor of a future suicidal act.

RISK FACTORS FOR SUICIDAL BEHAVIOR:

Risk factors for suicide vary greatly from person to person depending on the severity of mental illness, personality strengths and vulnerabilities, and support system. The following list is not meant to be all-inclusive.

  • Sudden stressful life events (i.e. humiliating events, financial ruin, job loss, death of a loved one)
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Economic problems
  • Legal problems
  • Mental illness
  • Medical problems (acute and chronic)
  • Intractable physical pain
  • Poor support system

WHAT CAN WE DO TO PREVENT SUICIDE?

It is important to recognize the above warning signs and risk factors as well as the symptoms of mental illness and alcohol/drug abuse. Early intervention is the most effective way to prevent suicide. Any statement of suicidal thoughts or suicidal behavior must be taken seriously. Anyone who expresses thoughts of suicide requires immediate medical evaluation.

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF SUICIDE ON THE SURVIVORS?

The effects of suicide on friends and family can be devastating. People who lose a loved one to suicide tend to feel guilty for the death of their family member or friend, wonder what they could have done to prevent it, and may even feel rejected by others.

Suicide survivors may experience:

  • Sadness for their loss
  • Anger towards the deceased family member
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder, especially when a witness to the suicide or finding the family member after a completed suicide
  • Suicide attempts to reconnect with their lost loved one
As the aftermath of family suicide may have long lasting effects, it is important for survivors of suicide to seek help in dealing with their loss.

HOW TO HELP?

Anyone who expresses thoughts of suicide or attempts suicide should be evaluated immediately:

  • Calling 911,
  • Taking the person (yourself) to the nearest emergency room, or
  • Looking for help from a mental health professional
Psychotherapy and counseling can help the suicidal person deal with his/her feelings or negative thoughts, identify stressors, and strengthen coping skills. Psychiatric medications may also control symptoms of depression, anxiety or any other mental health condition.

Help is also available through telephone hotlines. In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255) is an excellent source of support. It is for people in crisis, not just when thinking about suicide. The call is free and confidential and a mental health professional will be available to listen to you and provide information about mental health services in your community.

There is no shame in seeking help and it can save your life!

Remember…

Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Healthy. Be Strong.

Until next time!

Dr. Felix

El Suicidio: Caras Vemos, Corazones No Sabemos…

El reciente suicidio del actor Robin Williams es un recordatorio trágico de una de las epidemias de nuestra sociedad. Muchos han quedado preguntándose, “¿Cómo puede un hombre tan talentoso y cómico terminar su propia vida?” Aunque la lucha de Robin Williams con el consumo de drogas y la enfermedad mental pudo haber sido pública, al igual que muchas otras personas alrededor del mundo, su sufrimiento y demonios internos ganaron la batalla.

Según los últimos datos proporcionados por los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC), el suicidio representó la décima causa de muerte en los Estados Unidos en 2011. Si esto no fuese lo suficientemente alarmante, para los adolescentes y adultos jóvenes, el suicidio representó la segunda causa de muerte (entre las edades de 15 a 34 años).

Es por esto que la vigilancia de las señales de alerta, la prevención, y la ayuda inmediata para alguien que expresa ideas de suicidio o intenta suicidarse son de gran importancia.

¿CUÁLES SON ALGUNAS SEÑALES DE ALERTA?

Muchas de las señales de alerta son similares a los síntomas de la depresión:

  • Sentimientos de tristeza o desesperanza
  • Cambio de comportamiento
  • Irritabilidad
  • Ansiedad o tensión
  • Problemas al dormir
  • Cambios en el apetito
  • Pérdida de interés en actividades placenteras
  • Descuido del aspecto personal
  • Sentimientos de culpa
  • Aislamiento de amigos y familiares
  • Obsequiar o deshacerse de objetos de valor personal o favoritos
  • Consumo de alcohol y drogas
  • Hablar acerca del suicidio
  • El reponerse de manera repentina luego de un período de depresión (quizás luego de haber decidido quitarse la vida para terminar con su sufrimiento)
Aunque todas las señales estén presentes, es bien difícil determinar con certeza quien va a tomar la decisión de quitarse la vida. Lo que sí sabemos es que el factor de riesgo más importante para la predicción del suicidio es el comportamiento suicida pasado. Es decir, el haber intentado suicidarse en el pasado hace que la persona sea más propensa a intentarlo en un futuro.

FACTORES DE RIESGO PARA LA CONDUCTA SUICIDA:

Los factores de riesgo para el suicidio varían enormemente de persona a persona dependiendo de la severidad de la enfermedad mental, fortalezas y vulnerabilidades en su personalidad, y su sistema de apoyo. La siguiente lista no pretende ser exhaustiva.

  • Eventos estresantes repentinos (acontecimientos humillantes, ruina económica, pérdida del empleo, muerte de un ser querido)
  • Conflicto interpersonal
  • Problemas económicos
  • Problemas legales
  • Enfermedad mental
  • Problemas médicos (agudos o crónicos)
  • Dolor físico crónico
  • Pobre sistema de apoyo

¿CÓMO PODEMOS PREVENIR EL SUICIDIO?

Es importante reconocer las señales de alerta y factores de riesgo al igual que los síntomas de enfermedades mentales y el abuso de drogas y alcohol. La intervención temprana es la manera más eficaz de prevenir el suicidio.

Siempre debemos tomar en serio cualquier declaración de pensamientos suicidas o comportamientos suicidas. Cualquier persona que exprese ideas de suicidio debe ser evaluada inmediatamente.

¿QUÉ TRAUMA PROVOCA A LA FAMILIA EL SUICIDIO DE UN SER QUERIDO?

Los efectos del suicidio en la familia o amigos pueden ser devastadores. Las personas que pierden a un ser querido por suicidio tienden a sentirse culpables por la muerte de su familiar o amigo, preguntarse que podrían haber hecho para evitarlo, o hasta sentirse rechazados por otras personas.

Los sobrevivientes del suicidio pueden experimentar una gran variedad de sentimientos:

  • Tristeza por la pérdida
  • Enojo en contra del familiar perdido
  • Sentimientos de culpa
  • Depresión
  • Ansiedad
  • Trastorno de estrés postraumático, en especial cuando presenciaron el suicido o encontraron al familiar muerto
  • Intentos de suicidio para reencontrarse con su ser querido
Las secuelas causadas por la pérdida pueden afectar al sobreviviente del suicidio por el resto de su vida, por lo cual es importante que también busque ayuda.

¿CÓMO AYUDAR?

Cualquier persona que exprese ideas de suicidio o intente suicidarse debe ser evaluada inmediatamente:

  • Llamando al 911
  • Llevándola a la sala de emergencia más cercana, o
  • Buscando ayuda con un profesional de la salud mental
La psicoterapia y consejería pueden ayudar a la persona a lidiar con sus sentimientos o pensamientos negativos, aprendiendo a identificar factores estresantes que hacen que la persona reaccione de una manera u otra, al mismo tiempo que se aprenden las destrezas para poder reaccionar de una manera positiva. Los medicamentos psiquiátricos también podrían controlar los síntomas de depresión, ansiedad y/o alguna otra condición mental.

También se podría buscar ayuda a través de líneas telefónicas de apoyo. En los Estados Unidos, la Red Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio (1-888-628-9454) es una excelente fuente de apoyo. Es para personas en crisis, no sólo si se está pensando en el suicidio. La llamada es gratuita y confidencial. Un profesional de la salud mental estará disponible para escucharte y ofrecer información acerca de servicios de salud mental en tu comunidad.

¡No hay vergüenza en pedir ayuda y podría salvar tu vida!

Recuerda…

Sé Inteligente. Sé Precavido. Sé Saludable. Sé Fuerte.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Dr. Félix