Lately, the suicide rate has been increasing. In fact, a study has listed suicide as one of the leading causes of death in England in adults who are under 50. And, this study has also found that nurses are more likely to commit suicide than others, especially if they are female.
In another separate study administered by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, it was revealed that medical doctors and nurses have higher suicide rates as compared to those in education.
From a different perspective, this might be a bit overwhelming as nurses are who we view as people who value life and health above anything else. However, nurses face a high level of stress per day.
Reasons why nurses are more at risks of suicide
Several studies have revealed that the suicide rate is higher among nurses, and more studies were also conducted to understand the reasons why. Below are some reasons that are believed to be the cause of the high suicide rates among female nurses:
1. Nursing is a high-stress job
Let's face it, nursing is a high-stress job. They are forced to be on their feet most of the time, running from one floor to another to cater to all the patients’ needs. Most often than not, nurses are sandwiched between the demands of their patients and coping with the standards set by the system.
Without a good support system, the stress-inducing tasks that all nurses must face every day at work will most likely take a toll on their physical health and mental state.
A group of researchers conducted a study about the relationship between chronic stress and suicidal thinking among medical students. The study was conducted between 2014-2015 in Poland with the aim of understanding how students cope with this huge problem. The findings of the study revealed:
- The medical and health industry is full of stressors that cause the body to release more stress hormones.
- Freshmen medical students, who are just starting their studies, have difficulty coping with the stress.
- Chronic stress plays a major role in the mental health of medical students.
With these findings, it was concluded that chronic stress and anxiety affected someone's mental health negatively, encouraging suicidal thoughts.
2. Nurses are more exposed to trauma and deaths as compared to other health professionals in the hospital.
On top of having a lot of stressful tasks, there is also the constant exposure to trauma and death, which can greatly affect nurses’ mental health.
Emergency nurses are more susceptible to death anxiety and post-traumatic stress because they are repeatedly exposed to work-related traumatic incidents. PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a common problem among emergency nurses.
3. Outside factors, such as gender roles
Nurses are mothers and daughters too, and they have other responsibilities that they need to attend to aside from their hospital duties. This is particularly true for female professionals. Since they still have to undertake childcare and household roles, they usually have a hard time balancing their personal lives.
Looking into the everyday life of a nurse, you can guess that their work schedules are usually unpredictable. This leads to a lot of sacrifices, such as skipping dinner at home, spending less time with the family, and having problems with the spouse.
4. Depression is a silent epidemic among nurses.
A lot of nurses know and accept the fact that their job takes a lot of responsibility that can affect their overall health. Hence, they are required to be prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, there are no specific rules that require nurses to endure stress and problems at work to the point of developing depression.
Unfortunately, mental health is a huge thing for health professionals, and most of them are unaware that they are already affected by signs and symptoms of depression.
Should registered nurses with mental illness or who are taking medication be considered “impaired”? This topic has been the subject of many debates in the recent years. This is also why nurses choose to neglect the symptoms of depression because of the fear of being labeled as impaired and no longer fit to care for their patients.
In general, nurses, despite knowing that they have the symptoms of anxiety and depression, may choose to overlook the signs and just focus on their tasks at hand.
Things to do to help reduce the suicide rate among nurses
So, what can be done in order to help nurses, as well as other health professionals, cope with suicidal thinking?
For a starter, being open about their feelings and talking about the issues can help a lot. People with suicidal thoughts often bottle up their feelings instead of seeking help. It is very crucial for nurses to seek help and just get rid of the stigma that is associated with having depression.
With the kind of environment that nurses have, it would help a lot if their management becomes a supportive community. Hospital management should acknowledge the findings of the studies about the high suicide rate among nurses. They should invest in supportive leadership and have cognitive-behavioral interventions, as well as psychological counselling for nurses.
According to studies, counselling and mental health training can help nurses greatly. These types of training can help equip the nurses to be fully prepared for the demands and responsibilities of the job. Moreover, nurses can also learn the skills of the therapeutic relationship, which is an essential part of patient management.
In general, to help reduce suicidal thoughts among nurses, management and nurses must collaborate. While nurses can control their feelings, the management also has to do something to help nurses cope with their stress at work.
Stress-coping strategies that nurses should use
People have different responses to stress; the same thing goes for nurses. In a study conducted among Iranian Nurses, these 6 strategies helped them cope the best:
- Situational Controlling of Conditions
- Preventive Monitoring of Situation
- Seeking Help
- Avoidance and Escape the Situations
- Spiritual Coping
If you want to know more details about these coping strategies, learn more here.
Nurses are humans, too. They are also susceptible to anxiety and stress at work, just like other people in different professions. However, their level of stress and exposure to trauma and anxiety are more severe than most professionals. It is understandable for nurses to find ways or take time to de-stress after a long nursing shift.
To all nurses out there, you are a true HERO in every sense of the word. The sacrifices and effort you put in your job deserve recognition and must be celebrated.