Suicide risk: ‘deeply alarming’ rise in NHS staff seeking help

Charity figures released for World Mental Health Day show a 70% rise in NHS staff seeking help for suicidal thoughts in first six months of 2022, compared with same period in 2021

Charity figures released for World Mental Health Day show a 70% rise in NHS staff seeking help for suicidal thoughts in first six months of 2022, compared with same period in 2021

There has been a ‘deeply alarming’ rise in NHS staff including nurses seeking help for suicidal thoughts, a suicide support charity has warned
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There has been a ‘deeply alarming’ rise in NHS staff, including nurses, seeking help for suicidal thoughts, a charity has warned.

Analysis by the Laura Hyde Foundation (LHF) shows 946 workers contacted the charity in the first six months of 2022 for support over suicidal thoughts – up 70% on the 556 who did so in the same period the year before.

Cost of living crisis contributes to nurses’ mental health issues

Nurses were among the groups most likely to contact the charity for help this year, along with midwives, medical students and hospital doctors. Most (77%) were aged 40 or under and many cited the spiralling cost of living as a reason for intrusive thoughts, the charity said.

Nurse and clinical doctorate fellow at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust Gemma Clay said many staff have told her the cost of living crisis is taking its toll on their mental health, alongside burnout and stress from the pandemic and ongoing workforce issues in the NHS.

‘The leap of 70% is a shocking statistic, but I am not totally surprised because as a nurse working on the front line, I see the mental ill health many in the service are suffering with every day,’ she said.

‘People experiencing suicidal thoughts often struggle to be heard. My main advice to anyone feeling this way is to talk to someone. Don’t stay silent, as it is hard going through it alone.’

The LHF, set up by the family of Royal Navy nurse Laura Hyde, who died by suicide in 2016, released the figures ahead of World Mental Health Day today.

COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on nurses’ mental health

LHF trustee chair Liam Barnes called the figures ‘deeply alarming’ and said they exposed what the foundation had been growing increasingly concerned about in recent months.

‘Our healthcare and emergency services are still facing a pandemc,’ he said. ‘This time, however, it isn’t COVID-19, it is the state of mental health and well-being of the workforce.

‘We are yet to see the true effects of burnout, post-traumatic stress disorder and many more conditions as a result of this testing time. Plus, we now have a cost-of-living crisis that will only add to the burden many of our front-line workers will face.

‘Sadly, the topic of mental health, specifically for healthcare workers, remains riddled with stigma. This simply has to end.’

Last month, England’s chief nurse Ruth May said mental health support for nurses and other healthcare workers would have to be extended for ‘much, much longer’ in view of the scale and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do you need help?

If you are struggling with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, help and support is available from the following services:

RCNi well-being centre

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