Nurse helpline sees calls about suicide double in one year
Nursing leaders warn of an impending mental health crisis after alarming rise in reports of suicidal thoughts among nursing staff
Nursing leaders are warning of a ‘frightening’ mental health crisis emerging among nursing staff as new data show calls to a helpline regarding suicidal thoughts have doubled since last year.
Advice line sees steep rise in calls from nurses who say they have had suicidal thoughts
In the first ten months of 2023 there was a 98% increase in the number of nursing staff telling the RCN's advice line they were having suicidal thoughts in an initial phone call, compared to the same timeframe last year. Data show an increase from 89 to 176 calls.
The college also reported a steep increase in the volume of calls from people reporting suicide ideation from an average of one per week in October 2021 to one per day in October 2023.
‘The rise in nursing staff having suicidal thoughts should be a frightening wake-up call,’ said RCN interim head of nursing practice Stephen Jones.
‘Nursing staff contribute so much to our society but working in an inherently stressful job can come at an enormous personal cost. Yet we see support services cut when we should be seeing greater investment in looking after those who care for us.’
One third of staff mental health hubs closed due to funding cuts
Earlier this year the government cut funding to mental health hubs for NHS staff, with one third of them now closed. This has left an estimated 1 million health workers without local support.
Mr Jones said he is concerned the cost of living crisis, along with pressures to clear the waiting list backlog is putting an increasing burden on nursing staff.
The RCN referred to multiple studies that show nurses and other healthcare professionals are at higher risk of suicide due to stressful work environments exacerbated by excessive workloads, staffing shortages and poorly resourced workplaces.
In response to these latest findings, the RCN has commissioned research looking into the reasons why nursing staff are having suicidal thoughts and whether there is a disproportionate impact on those from marginalised groups.
Calls for government funding for mental health support for nurses
The college called on the government to urgently provide funding for dedicated mental health support for nursing staff, a sentiment echoed by NHS Providers.
NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said: ‘We need urgent action to tackle this situation, which has led to an alarming rise in suicidal thoughts among nursing staff.
‘Nurses play a vital role in our society but cannot be expected to meet such high demand without proper national support for, and investment in, front-line services. It’s crucial the government recognise that reducing mental health support for nursing staff is unsustainable.’
The Department of Health and Social Care was contacted for comment.
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