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How are you? Are you OK? Do you want to talk?
  1. Geoffrey Hughes
  1. Correspondence to:
 Prof G Hughes
 The Emergency Department Royal Adelaide Hospital North Terrace Adelaide, Australia, PO 5000; cchdhb{at}

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A few weeks ago two colleagues from different local institutions committed suicide. These sad and dispiriting events were unrelated.

We can only imagine the turmoil and emotional state of their families. Colleagues and friends in their immediate professional communities were shocked, bewildered and saddened almost beyond belief. A sense of guilt pervaded, like a nebulised mist; could we have helped? Could we have made a difference? Did we miss something? Was there anything we did, in words or deeds, which may have contributed, no matter how unlikely or far-fetched? People wiser than us in such matters say that these thoughts are commonplace after any sudden and unexpected death.

The medical profession is rightly proud of its contribution to caring (in the widest sense) for others. In our naïve youth, many would have said that the reason we entered medical school, to become a doctor, was because we wanted to help people. Be that as it may, we are probably not so good at helping and caring …

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  • Competing interests: None declared.