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Adelani Temiloluwa
School Of Nursing Ondo
Nursing Student
300Level, Nigeria.

A nurse who tried to take her own life after she said she was bullied and harassed at work has called for a review of mental health support for nursing staff to reduce an alarming number of suicides.

Louisa Campbell said she wanted to encourage other nurses to speak out because she believed suicide and mental health problems were often a taboo subject among the nursing community.

In August 2017, she took an overdose with the intention of ending her life after enduring several years of bullying and harassment at work, Ms Campbell explained.

“I just felt absolutely worthless, degraded and so alone,” she told Nursing Times.

The problems started after she made a sexual harassment complaint against a colleague and claimed she was told by managers to “put up or shut up”.

According to Ms Campbell, her employers then proceeded to make her life “a living hell” including excluding her from meetings, refusing to pay legitimate work expenses and questioning her abilities.

A nurse for more than 15 years, Ms Campbell said she tried desperately to get support from a range of different organisations but felt “no one was listening”.

Earlier this year, there were calls for a public inquiry into nurse suicides after it emerged that more than 300 nurses in England and Wales had taken their own lives between 2011 and 2017.

Previous research from the Office of National Statistics showed the suicide rate among nurses was 23% higher than the national average with female nurses at particularly high risk.

Meanwhile, an investigation into NHS staff wellbeing published by Health Education England in February found nurses were among professional groups most at risk of taking their own life.

The Department for Health and Social Care has promised a range of measures to improve workplace wellbeing – including a new helpline - in the forthcoming NHS People Plan.

However, Ms Campbell said she would like there to be a specific review of suicides and mental health support for nurses and has launched a petition calling for this.

“I think there should be an investigation by the government and I certainly think unions need to have a look and change their guidelines and offer more support,” she said.

In her petition on the parliament.uk website Ms Campbell highlighted the need to address “a toxic culture of bullying”.

Nurses’ mental health often suffered due to stress but they were “reluctant to seek support, fearing it would blot their career”, said the petition, which went live last week.

Ms Campbell is unsure whether she will return to nursing practice following her ordeal but she said she was looking into doing a psychology degree or going into a nurse education role.

She said she felt good about the future and her message to nurses who were struggling was: “You are not alone”.

“I feel optimistic and that I am not going to go backwards. I feel quite liberated that I have spoken out and had the courage to carry on and I feel very lucky that I didn’t die,” she said.

The Laura Hyde Foundation, which was set up in the name of a nurse who took her own life, said it was concerned to hear about Ms Campbell’s case.

Chair Liam Barnes said he also backed calls for a public inquiry into the number of nurses taking their lives.

“It is time that the government put more pressure on NHS trusts by holding an inquiry into the unacceptable number of nurses taking their lives after experiencing mental ill health at work,” he said.

“We urgently need to see more support from NHS trusts for nurses. Mental ill health should be treated the same as any physical ailment that a health worker could be suffering from,” he added.

He said policies to support staff wellbeing should be tailored to the specific needs of nurses and other healthcare workers in different fields such as emergency care.

“Research has shown productivity, engagement and staff satisfaction levels rise when effective policies are put in place, so this makes business sense as well as human sense,” said Mr Barnes.

Kim Sunley, the Royal College of Nursing’s national officer for health and safety, said improved mental health support for nurses “can't wait any longer”.

"Nursing staff work in a system with chronic vacancies, experience high levels of stress, and work long hours,” she added.

“It is unsurprising that as a result their mental health can begin to suffer.”

Ms Sunley said the college had been “repeatedly” told by members that they their mental health issues had been ignored or disregarded after being reported to an employer.

“From government to employers, all efforts must be redoubled to provide support,” she added

She noted that any nurses struggling with their mental health could speak to the RCN representative or steward in their workplace or contact the college’s free and confidential counselling service.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was taking action to boost the wellbeing of nurses and other healthcare staff.

“Our dedicated nurses provide excellent care to patients around the clock and they deserve to have tailored mental health support in recognition of the challenging situations they face every day,” said a spokesman.

“We want this to include post-trauma support, 24/7 confidential services and access to mental health referrals.”

He said the People Plan would “put staff wellbeing at its heart to make the NHS a great place to work and make sure bullying and harassment is never tolerated”.

Source: https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/mental-health/exclusive-nurse-who-attempted-suicide-says-profession-needs-more-support-30-10-2019/

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