Life

305 nurses died by suicide over the last 7 years. We need to start asking why.

Posted by
Hollie Richardson
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Nursing crisis

The government is being urged to carry out an inquiry into the recent nurse suicide figures.

Families of the hundreds of nurses who have died by suicide in the UK are calling for the government to inquire into their deaths.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has called the figures “heartbreaking” and has joined the campaign for an investigation. It is also backed by the Royal College of Nursing, with Chief Executive Dame Donna Kinnair saying: “These figures are a cause of great concern. Nursing staff experience high levels of stress, a shortage of colleagues and long working hours. We must all redouble our efforts to support nursing staff.”

Figures released by the National Office of Statistics show that at least 305 nurses between the ages of 20 and 64 died by suicide from 2011 to 2017. The highest recorded year for suicides among nurses was 54 in 2014, when more than one nurse died every week. The most recent data shows that, although rates have dropped, there were still 32 suicides in 2017. 

It would be fair to say the NHS is currently in the midst of a nursing crisis. Job applications from EU nurses – who are crucial to the running of the NHS – have dropped a massive 96% since the Brexit vote, while more UK nurses and midwives are now leaving the profession than joining it. Facing a perfect storm of government spending cuts, reduced numbers of community support staff and an ageing population, our national health service on a whole is under extraordinary strain.

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The Department of Health and Social Care have said: “Any death by suicide is a preventable tragedy. NHS staff put themselves in some of the most challenging situations imaginable as part of their unwavering commitment to caring for us all. It is paramount they can access suitable support.

“The NHS will shortly set out its response to recommendations which will improve mental health support for staff, including access to a dedicated confidential helpline and fast-tracked referral scheme so that anyone struggling gets the help they need.”

While you can never really generalise how struggling to cope can make you feel or act, the Samaritans have compiled a list of symptoms.

These include:

• Lacking energy or feeling tired

• Feeling restless and agitated

• Feeling tearful

• Not wanting to talk to or be with people

• Not wanting to do things you usually enjoy

• Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings

• Finding it hard to cope with everyday things

If you think that these sound like you or someone you know, the charity has urged that you get in touch with them now.

Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.

Image: Getty

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