How Healthcare Workers Deal With Their Mental Health

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.


September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and we want to take a minute to bring that awareness to the healthcare profession. Nurses and physicians are often at an increased risk of suicide. This can be due to the extremely high sress duties they’re expected to complete day in and day out. Unfortunately, “burnout” is a term that most healthcare professionals are far too familiar with. And for the past year , with hospitals working at maximum capacity, these issues have been heightened even further.


Nurses are at a high risk for suicide


The suicide risk for female nurses, as compared to the general population, is higher than it is for female physicians. Researchers at UC San Diego examined nationwide data on violent deaths and found a few key stats. One being that suicide rates were nearly 58% higher in female nurses and 41% higher in male nurses. Additionally,  Nurses who lose a job or leave the profession due to substance use, mental health issues, or chronic pain are at an increased risk for suicide. 


Nurses spend much of their time at the bedside caring for patients. They observe many difficult situations.  No matter the degree of stress a nurse endures throughout a shift, they are expected to come back the next day and do it all over again. 


Strenuous shifts, lower autonomy in the workforce, avoidance of mental health services for fear of stigma, as well as greater access to means to complete suicide, are all reasons that nurses commit suicide.


Physicians are not immune from suicide


For most physicians, suicidal risk factors are greater when mental health issues go untreated. Approximately 300 to 400 practicing physicians die by suicide each year. A study also found that 1 in 16 surgeons reported suicidal ideations. 

Overwhelming workloads, work inefficiency, lack of autonomy and meaning in work, as well as work-home conflict, can all lead to physician burnout. Moreover, there’s an increased tendency for physicians to self-medicate to address anxiety, insomnia and other conditions that can be tied to poor mental health.


If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Line 1-800-273-8255.




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