A tree in honour and remembrance of NHS staff who have died by suicide has been planted outside Ealing Hospital in London.
A special ceremony held at the hospital earlier this month was attended by a range of health workers and charities who paid tribute to hundreds of NHS staff who have died by suicide in recent years.
“I have no doubt that talking more openly about mental health will save lives”
During this, Adam Kay, a former doctor and author of ‘This is going to hurt’ – a book based on his personal diaries of working on the wards – planted a tree in honour of those who have died.
His book was turned into a BBC drama, filmed at the hospital, which focused on the mental wellbeing of NHS staff working under extreme pressures and included the death by suicide of a fictional junior doctor called Shruti.
A moving scene sees a tree planted outside the hospital in Shruti’s memory and sparked numerous real life visits from people trying to find the location.
This led to a conversation between Mr Kay and the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, who subsequently agreed that a real tree would be a fitting tribute to colleagues who have died by suicide.
Nurse mental wellbeing has been a key concern in recent years, especially in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, as Covid-19 hit, Nursing Times launched its Covid-19: Are You OK? campaign to lobby for appropriate mental health and wellbeing support for nurses and colleagues during the pandemic and beyond.
According to the Laura Hyde Foundation (LHF), which was set up in memory of Royal Navy nurse Laura Hyde who died by suicide in 2016, more than 220 nurses across the UK tried to end their life during the first year of the pandemic.
The charity was among those who attended the ceremony at Ealing Hospital.
Liam Barnes, founder of the LHF, said: “The main challenge is the feeling that you must maintain a stiff upper lip and that it is just part of the job. We must change attitude.”
Meanwhile, Mr Kay said: “Suicide among healthcare workers has long been a taboo subject which has been ignored and brushed under the carpet.
“I have no doubt that talking more openly about mental health will save lives.”
He thanked the trust for being “wonderfully supportive” of what he said was believed to be the “first UK memorial to healthcare workers who have died by suicide”.
In addition, Pippa Nightingale chief executive of the trust, added: “I started my career as a midwife so am aware of the pressure frontline staff can find themselves under.
“I think the NHS has learnt a lot from the pandemic and the importance of providing better mental health and wellbeing support to staff.
“It is tragic that the people who care for us sometimes don’t feel they have someone to turn to themselves.”
Ellie Orton, chief executive at NHS Charities Together, added: “The impact of Covid-19 on staff mental health has been devastating, and they continue to work under huge amounts of pressure.
“With trauma following the pandemic, a huge patient backlog and soaring public health demands, we know many in the health service are struggling – and they need our support to ensure they can access proper help.”
If you or someone you know are struggling to cope and need someone to talk to, the Samaritans offer 24-hour support on 116 123, or you can email email@example.com for a response within 24 hours.