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An American nurse sitting on the floor of a hospital, seeming exhausted.
One in five healthcare workers reported symptoms of depression and anxiety during the pandemic. Photo courtesy: Unsplash

Health

Suicide Rates Are Rising Among U.S. Nurses, Finds New Study

This is even before the collective year long and unending trauma of COVID-19.

From patients to doctors to the general public, COVID-19 has spared no one. One of the most affected have been nurses who have worked through exhaustion, long hours, while going through symptoms of long-COVID and losing their colleagues to the virus.

The effect on their mental health has been profound, as a study found that one in five healthcare workers reported symptoms of depression and anxiety, and four in ten went through insomnia during the pandemic. Another study from last year found that nurses and other healthcare workers in areas with higher infection rates, “reported more severe degrees of all psychological symptoms than other health care workers.” The study was published before the current second wave.

The psychological trauma though isn’t new.

A new study published in the journal Jama Psychiatry this week found that suicide rates among nurses have been rising for years. The study, which used data from 2007 to 2018, focused on finding the suicide rates among nurses when compared to the general population. It found that suicides were more common among the former at 23.8 per 100,000 people when compared with the latter where the number was 20.1 per 100,000 people. Physicians, the study found, didn’t face any significantly increased suicide risk.

The psychological trauma though isn’t new.

This is even before the collective year long, and at this point, unending trauma of COVID-19. When the pandemic struck the U.S. last year, nurses and doctors had to protest for PPE like gloves and masks. By the end of the year, hospitals in half of the American states were suffering staff shortages.

In India, the government’s scheme to insure healthcare workers on the frontlines of COVID-19 expired last week, without any announcement of a renewal. This wasn’t even a life insurance, but a health insurance scheme, meaning a frontline worker needed to die of COVID-19 for their families to become beneficiaries. The country is fast becoming the epicentre of the global COVID-19 outbreak, reporting over 270,000 cases today alone.

With stretched resources and the mental and physical toll of working through the pandemic, the study forebodes of the crisis nursing staff will face if steps aren’t taken to support their well-being.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and save lives,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said on World Patient Safety Day last year. “No country, hospital or clinic can keep its patients safe unless it keeps its health workers safe.”


Also read: Even During a Pandemic, Indian Men Can’t Stop Harassing Women Asking for Help Online


 

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Suicide Rates Are Rising Among U.S. Nurses, Finds New Study