Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have called for the introduction of a specific suicide prevention programme for the nursing workforce across the UK.
In an emergency resolution submitted at the RCN’s annual conference in Brighton, members called on RCN Council to lobby for the implementation of an evidence-based, integrated suicide prevention programme for the profession.
“We’re going to lost more of our colleagues if things don’t change”
Ruth Bailey, a nurse who presented the item, warned that nurses were working in settings where there had been an “explosion of poor mental health”.
Ms Bailey noted that while there were many examples of good practice, such as mental health first aid, access to staff counselling provision was “still inconsistent across the UK” and the incidence of suicide continued to rise.
She said: “We need a consistent and co-ordinated approach of an evidence-based suicide prevention programme, and we need the RCN to lobby for urgent action now.
“It is imperative that the RCN, as the voice of nursing, steps into this space and leads a co-ordinated UK response to this epidemic of distress and that it acts now to prevent further death by suicide in nursing and midwifery.”
Meanwhile, Chantel Rose, a registered mental health nurse, told RCN Congress that her workload was “getting harder and getting more distressing”.
She said: “Sadly I have more fellow nurses on my caseload than ever in my entire life.
“It breaks my heart that I could be next.”
Ms Rose added: “We can pull it back if council make a change – you’re doing it with pay [so] do it with suicide.
“We’re going to lost more of our colleagues if things don’t change.”
Separately, Eva Omondi, from the RCN Eastern region, said that the support system available for internationally educated nurses who were struggling with their mental health was the “bare minimum”.
She highlighted that during discussions about nurse suicide it was important to think about “the aggravating factors” which were specifically affecting internationally educated nurses.
One of the key factors she mentioned was how some internationally educated nurses have a lack of family in the UK to support them through poor mental health.
Meanwhile, Chloe Roberts, a student nurse and RCN ambassador, told RCN Congress that suicide was sometimes “a taboo topic” that people are afraid to talk about for fear of saying the wrong thing.
Ms Roberts, who lost her best friend to suicide two years ago, explained that she had taken part in suicide prevention training and called for the training to be mandatory for all NHS employees.
She said: “I urge you to support this resolution to help create change in our workforce, to make suicide prevention training course mandatory as congress you never know when this training could help you with the knowledge to save a life.”
The emergency resolution was backed overwhelming by RCN members, which could lead to RCN Council lobbying for a suicide prevention programme for the nursing workforce across the UK.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for a response within 24 hours.