Nurses More Likely to Have Suicidal Thoughts, Less Likely to Seek Help, Study Says

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Nurses in the United States have suicidal thoughts more than other workers and are less likely to tell anyone about it, researchers at the Mayo Clinic have found.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Nursing, are based on a survey of more than 7,000 nurses that included questions on burnout, depression, and well-being.

The survey was conducted in 2017 before the COVID-19 pandemic put more strains on the profession.

More than 400 nurses, or 5.5% of respondents, reported thinking about suicide within the past year, the survey found. Researchers also sent the survey to a cross-section of the general workforce, 4.3% of which reported thinking about suicide.

The survey found that 84.2% of nurses were willing to seek professional help for a serious emotional problem. However, only 72.6% of nurses who thought about suicide reported a willingness to get help. Eighty-five percent of nurses who hadn't thought about suicide said they were willing to get help.

"Although nurses constitute the largest group of health care professionals, surprisingly little is known about their risk factors for suicide," reads the study. "Suicide is difficult to study."

The study also found that burnout was closely associated with thoughts of suicide among nurses. Researchers said their findings show there's an urgent need for interventions to address burnout and suicidal thoughts among nurses.

"While the findings of our study are serious enough, we recognize the impact of the current pandemic has dramatically compounded the situation," Dr. Liselotte Dyrbye, a Mayo Clinic internist and senior author of the study, said in a press release.

"The need for system-level interventions to improve the work lives of nurses and other members of the health care team is greater than ever before," Dyrbye said.

The study also referenced a survey of nurses by the American Nurses Association from last January and February in which 23% of respondents reported feeling depressed and 1% had thoughts of suicide. 

It also referenced other research that concluded that nurses were more likely to die by suicide than people in the general population.

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