Tag Archives: suicide

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

Teen Suicide

Suicide is one of our society’s epidemics. 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 2009. If this were not alarming enough, suicide is the third leading cause of death among our teenagers.

Recognition of warning signs, early intervention, and immediately seeking help for anyone who expresses thoughts of suicide or attempts suicide are of great importance.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON CAUSES OF SUICIDE AMONG TEENS?

Adolescence is an extremely stressful period in our development. The transition between childhood and adulthood is marked by enormous changes: hormonal, physical, mental, and emotional. The stress caused by these changes can have a significant impact on the teenager’s life.

Some stressors include:

  • Normal developmental changes
  • Painful events
  • Family dysfunction
  • Physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • School problems or bullying
  • Problems with boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Sexual orientation
  • Mental illness
These stressful factors can be very overwhelming, too embarrassing, or too difficult to overcome for some teenagers. Suicide may erroneously seem like the answer to end their problems and/or internal suffering.

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 enjoyable activities (hanging out with friends, video games)
  • Poor hygiene
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Giving away or throwing out objects of personal value
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Suddenly recovering from a period of depression (maybe after having decided to put an end to their suffering by ending their life)
  • Talk/verbal threats of suicide
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.

WHAT CAN PARENTS DO TO PREVENT SUICIDE?

It is important to recognize the above warning signs. Early intervention is the most effective way to prevent suicide among our children.

Any statement of suicidal thoughts or suicidal behavior must be taken seriously. Anyone who expresses thoughts of suicide requires immediate medical evaluation.

Other recommendations include:

  • Maintaining an open communication with our children
  • Making our children feel comfortable to talk to us about their problems/feelings
  • Supporting our children
  • Keeping medications and firearms away from children

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF SUICIDE ON THE SURVIVORS?

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

Suicide survivors may experience:

  • Sadness for their loss
  • Anger towards the deceased family member
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder, especially when 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 A SUICIDAL TEEN?

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

  • Call 911
  • Take the person to the nearest emergency room, or
  • Look 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. 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 and provide information about mental health services in your community.

Remember…

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

Until next time!

Dr. Felix