Workplace pressures driving rise in suicidal thoughts among nurses: RCN

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A “significant rise” in the number of nurses in the UK experiencing suicidal thoughts is being driven by workplace pressures, according to new research from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Since November 2023, there has been a 54 per cent increase in calls to the RCN’s advice line from nursing staff reporting that they are struggling with suicidal thoughts, said the union. It added that the number of calls from members in crisis rose from seven per month in April 2022 to 30 in April 2024.

The Royal College of Nursing said that calls to its advice line from nurses in crisis rose from seven a month in April 2022 to one a day in April 2024. Photograph: iStock/SolStock

Analysis of data from the union’s counselling service showed a “direct link” between suicidal thoughts and workplace pressures, said the RCN. More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of nursing staff who had sought help for suicidal thoughts said that workplace pressures were a key factor, citing workload, formal proceedings, and bullying and harassment as stressors.

“It should be a moment of great shame that nursing staff are being pushed so hard at work that they feel suicidal,” said RCN acting general secretary and chief executive Professor Nicola Ranger. “In every setting nursing staff are suffering, but governments and health leaders aren’t paying attention. NHS staff desperately need properly funded mental health support and for the underlying drivers of poor mental health, such as workforce pressures, to be tackled.”

A survey released by the UNISON union in April found that almost one-third of NHS employees had taken time off work due to mental health issues in the past year, prompting calls for the reinstatement of UK government funding for the provision of mental health and wellbeing hubs for NHS workers.

The Department of Health and Social Care has referred media enquiries about the RCN’s research to NHS England. NHS England did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Samaritans helps people struggling with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. The charity can be contacted by telephone free-of-charge on 116 123, or by email at [email protected].