Survey highlights need for improved mental health guidance and support for anaesthetists following a co-worker’s suicide
Published today (Wednesday 3 July) in the journal Anaesthesia, a survey by the Association of Anaesthetists has highlighted the experiences of almost 1,400 anaesthetists who have lost a colleague through suicide whilst working in the same department. The survey reveals that most respondents are unaware of their Trust’s policies on mental illness, addiction or suicide.
The survey asked anaesthetists throughout the UK, Ireland and around the world for their experiences of a colleague’s suicide whilst practising as an anaesthetist in the UK or Ireland (in the same department and at the same time as the respondent). In addition, the researchers asked whether respondents were aware of welfare and support resources within their workplace for anaesthetists affected by mental illness, addiction and suicide.
Despite the relatively high number of respondents who reported working with a colleague who had died as a result of suicide, most respondents were unaware whether policies or guidance within their workplace on mental illness, addiction or suicide existed.
Dr Steve Yentis, Consultant Anaesthetist, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, who led the research, said: “A significant number of anaesthetists carry with them the experience of colleagues’ deaths and, as our survey demonstrates, these memories can last one’s whole career and beyond. There has been increasing concern recently about stress and mental health in general, and suicide in particular, in the medical profession. Our survey findings reinforce this concern and we want to see more done to promote discussion, awareness and support of mental health issues, including work-related stress and alcohol or drug misuse, throughout healthcare workplaces and anaesthetic departments. It is particularly concerning that most respondents to our survey were unaware of their Trust’s policies on mental illness, addiction and suicide.
“We welcome the current work within the NHS to support mental health and suicide prevention amongst its staff, and we hope that the forthcoming work of the Association of Anaesthetists will provide a useful tool for individuals and departments.”
As part of its role to offer wellbeing and support services to anaesthetists, the Association of Anaesthetists is currently developing freely accessible guidelines to help individuals and hospital departments, to support both anaesthetists at risk and colleagues/departments in the aftermath of a suicide.