“Many Italians Choose Suicide” – People Need to Work

Doctors Are Not Trained in Workforce Issues

Few physicians have sufficient training in the nuances of occupational medicine, yet all of us have the capacity to completely remove a patient from the work force. It has been my observation that when a person is sitting at home, his or her pain usually worsens.

  • Without the distractions of work, pain is more noticeable.
  • It’s usually not known when the patient can go back to work, which is anxiety inducing.
  • Being labeled a “chronic pain patient” by everyone, including the medical profession, begins early.

NBC News Post

NBC News last week reported that with the recent economic downturn, many Italians are committing suicide. Here are excerpts from the notes left by the victims:

  • “I decided to end it because I am a failure. I can’t live without work.”
  • “I can’t live without a job.”

This feeling of failure and loneliness is at the very heart of acts of desperation among the business community in Italy. These messages left are the same mantra repeated by workers and businessmen who either tried to kill themselves and lived to tell the tale or by those who thought about trying, but found other reasons to live.

Another excerpt:

  • “My business is like my family. I feel responsible for each of my employees. If my business fails, I fail with it.”

(This article was called, “In debt or jobless, many Italians choose suicide,” by  Claudio Lavanga. NBC News World Blog, May 9th, 2012)

My Old Attitudes Regarding Patients Returning To Work

I can speak only for myself in mentioning some of my old perspectives. However, my old attitude might generalize to how some physicians currently think about this issue.

  • I had the impression that many patients really wanted to stop working.
    • Only some wanted to stop working.
    • Most did not.
    • I did not understand how devastating it was to a patient and his/her family to lose a job.
    • It is time-consuming to go into the details of light duty, etc.
      • It is often easier for me just to take a person off of work.
      • The Workers’ Comp paperwork is difficult and time consuming.
        • It frequently goes to the bottom of the stack of other paperwork I have to do.

My Current Approach to the Workforce Issues

  • There are major implications of losing a job.
  • Being out of work creates further health problems.
  • Any time off work should be for as short a duration as possible with specific dates prescribed to return to work.
  • If a patient is already off of work, broach the subject of returning to work very quickly.
  • If they have no intention of returning to work, the issue has to be clearly discussed and an alternate plan implemented.

I did not have a single day of training regarding return to work issues. It took me at least ten years in practice before I was able to figure some of this out. A decade is way too long.

People inherently want to be a part of society and contribute. Being active in the workforce is an important part of that need.