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Study reveals troubling suicide attempt figures among frontline healthcare staff

Image credit: Matthew Waring

Over 300 healthcare frontline staff attempted to take their own life during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report reveals.

The figure includes 226 nurses, 79 paramedics and 17 medical students, all of whom attempted suicide between April 1st 2020 and April 30th 2021.

The research was carried out by the Laura Hyde Foundation, which was set up in 2017 to support frontline workers after the suicide of Royal Navy nurse, Laura Hyde.

Liam Barnes, chairman of the Foundation and cousin of Laura Hyde, says the numbers indicate an imminent and widespread problem for the healthcare sector.

“Make no mistake, we are now entering a new pandemic," Barnes told i. “A pandemic of mental health problems for frontline workers who stepped up at a time of national emergency. We have to help them.”

A separate survey of 850 NHS workers was also carried out as part of the investigation, which revealed an ongoing stigma around mental health issues among health workers.

Almost 3 in 4 (71%) of those surveyed said they 'had not been entirely truthful' about reasons behind their absence from work when mental health issues were the cause, over 4 in 10 (44%) of whom said they cited musculoskeletal issues in order to avoid follow-up discussions.

Over half (53%) said they felt uncomfortable taking advantage of employer-provided mental health support, with fears of letting down colleagues and being struck off being the two main reasons for not doing so.

“We are determined to use our very own Laura’s story to highlight that suicide is very real and far too frequent for it not to be discussed," added Barnes. "The statistics we highlight today show this and we encourage people to remove the barriers and get the help they need."

Throughout the pandemic, concerns have grown around how a strained NHS workforce has been coping with the added pressure of caring for people with COVID-19.

And recent reports have justified them, highlighting worryingly high numbers of mental health issues among social care and intensive care workers.

In response, calls have been made for improved mental health support for emergency workers.

In May, a letter from 13 healthcare organisations, including the British Medical Association and Royal College of Psychiatrists, suggested the need for support similar to that offered to war veterans.

The British Medical Association itself called for a period for frontline workers to rest and recover in March after having run 'hot' for a prolonged period of time.

The Government has, in part, responded to the issue, promising a £6.6 billion investment package for helping the NHS recover from the COVID-19 pandemic – some of which will go toward mental health support for workers.

Forty mental health 'hubs' were also announced in February, all of which will offer both online and in-person support services for NHS staff.

For support regarding suicidal thoughts, visit the Samaritans website here or call them 24/7 on 116 123.


Written by Marco Ricci

Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health


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