Published on: 25th May 2023
BAFTA winner, former NHS doctor, and bestselling author of This is Going to Hurt, Adam Kay, and representatives of UK charity, Doctors in Distress, came to RNOH today to plant a tree in memorial to health workers who have been lost to suicide. It is hoped that this continues to build into a nationwide initiative covering every UK hospital.
Doctors in Distress aims to raise awareness of the underreported area of health worker suicide and the importance of providing mental health support to workers, especially during the most serious crisis the NHS has ever faced.
In addition to Adam Kay, Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, the immediate past Chair of the BMA and a trustee of Doctors in Distress, was also present, as well as Ann Paul, CEO of Doctors in Distress, Carolyn Peers, Head of Operations for Doctors in Distress, Prof Paul Fish, CEO of RNOH, Caroline Owusu-Bennoah, RNOH Deputy CEO and Chief Financial Officer, Kim Kenealy from RNOH Estates Dept, RNOH Consultant Lee Bayliss, and RNOH Chaplin, Fr Paul Reece. They were joined by other representatives of Doctors in Distress and RNOH. Those assembled said a few words in dedication to health workers lost to suicide and emphasised why this initiative is so important.
The rate of suicide in the health sector is higher than in the general population. Levels of burnout, anxiety, and depression amongst medical personnel are at an all-time high and account for time lost to sickness and a lack of retention within the workforce. Having a symbolic ceremony and a designated place at each hospital to remember workers lost would be a way to draw attention to health worker suicide and, through public awareness, help prevent it from continuing in the future.
Adam Kay, said: "The facts that one NHS doctor takes their life every three weeks, one nurse dies by suicide every week are horrifying and almost unbelievable statistics. Sadly, it's one that has been brushed under hospital carpets for many years, with no real sign of change. The first step in solving a problem must be in admitting that the problem exists, and this is something I tried to highlight in the BBC adaptation of my book, This is Going to Hurt. The series culminated in the death by suicide of a doctor called Shruti - a fictional character based on so many tragic stories. In the show, a tree was planted in her memorial, which has led to trees being planted in real-life hospitals to commemorate lost colleagues. I'm very proud to support Doctors in Distress in raising awareness of this vital issue and protecting the mental health of healthcare workers."
Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “As a newly appointed trustee of Doctors in Distress, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to help to highlight a serious issue facing the whole of the medical profession, not only doctors. We have all experienced the reality of colleagues dying by suicide and this continues far too regularly. I believe that we need to continue to draw attention to the mental health of our medical workforce. Doctors in Distress is working to protect the mental health of all healthcare professionals and to stop suicide.”
Prof Paul Fish added “The issue of suicide within the medical profession is a very real one and many of us will have been affected by such a tragedy. Only by beginning to acknowledge this problem can we start to address the factors that lead to suicide among our colleagues. The fact that the rate of suicide among healthcare workers is higher than the general population speaks to the stress and pressure many colleagues find themselves under. This is why we must do all we can to put in place mental health and emotional support for colleagues. Any of us can be affected at any time, nobody is immune, and we all need protection. RNOH is proud to support Doctors in Distress to highlight this important issue, recognise the lives lost, and prevent further suicides.”
If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to, or want to talk to someone impartial, you can talk to Samaritans.