There has been quite a bit of talk about the suicide rates amongst Australian doctors in the media lately. Nurses also experience a high incidence of suicides. I think you might be shocked to see just how high.
A study published in The Medical Journal of Australia looked at the suicide rates of nurses, doctors and other health professionals compared to non-health professional occupations. It also examined the methods most likely to be used by occupational group.
This was a nation wide study of suicide cases between 2001 and 2012.
The results of the study included a much higher suicide rate amongst nurses than I expected.
- Medical practitioners = 79
- Nurses = 216
Remember, there are a lot more nurses working in the health system than doctors.
Even so, I found this astounding.
Why is there not an increased awareness of this within our profession and amongst the wider public?
The study also concluded that doctors and nurses suicides were more likely to involve self-poisoning, and female doctors & nurses were found to be particularly at risk.
“Occupational gender norms may also play a role in explaining the high suicide rate among male nurses and midwives. These occupations are organised to reinforce traditionally feminine behaviours of caring and support. Qualitative research has found that some male nurses experience anxiety about the perceived stigma associated with their non-traditional career choice. These anxieties may constitute a risk factor for suicide for men in these occupations.”
In examining the causes of such high suicide rates, the authors highlight some of the problems that transpose across both professions as we struggle with working in the current health system.
There is strong evidence that doctors experience a considerable number of psychosocial job stresses, including work–family conflict, long working hours, high job demands, and the fear of making mistakes at work. These psychosocial job stressors have been associated with common mental disorders (anxiety and depression) in several prospective cohort studies. Those working in caring professions, including nursing, may be particularly exposed to trauma, and they may also experience it vicariously through contact with patients and their families…”
Get Help. Send Help.
Nurse & Midwife Support is a confidential 24 hr/day advice and referral service for all nurses and midwives, nursing and midwifery students, employers, educators and concerned family and friends. Phone: 1800 667 877
Beyond Blue. Provides support for people experiencing bullying, anxiety, depression and thoughts of self harm. Phone: 1300 22 4636
Lifeline: Crisis support and suicide intervention. Phone: 131114
Reference: “Suicide by health professionals: a retrospective mortality study in Australia, 2001–2012.” MJA. September 15, 2015. Accessed April 09, 2017. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2016/205/6/suicide-health-professionals-retrospective-mortality-study-australia–2001–2012.