Suicide prevention charity sees surge in calls from NHS workers

A suicide prevention charity has seen an increase in calls from NHS workers since the UK was put on lockdown.

Simon Gunning, CEO of Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), said some of the workers are dealing with being isolated from their families, as well as the stress of working on the frontline of the most devastating pandemic in modern times.

The charity prevented 16 suicides in the last week, Mr Gunning revealed, as he warned there is a ‘lot more emergency’ in the nature of the calls.

He said: ‘We have had a large number of calls from NHS workers – that’s a frightening and incredibly stressful place to be at the moment.

‘Yes we’ve had NHS workers who have been isolated from their families, but also it’s the exposure to… the threat is understandably extremely stressful.’

Asked about the latest suicide statistics, Mr Gunning said: ‘They’re worrying, most definitely. 2018 to 2019 showed an 11% rise in suicide across the board. The trend is unquestionably there prior to all of this.

‘In the last week we prevented 16 suicides directly, there was a lot more emergency in the nature of the calls and the situations they are facing.’

It comes as more than 40 experts from around the world have called on governments to urgently consider suicide prevention, amid concern about the far-reaching impact that may be caused to people’s mental health by the pandemic.

It is feared the consequences on mental health will be ‘present for longer and peak later’ than the actual outbreak.

The group of 42 researchers from have formed the International Covid-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration.

In a piece in The Lancet Psychiatry, the experts say there are suggestions that suicide rates will rise but this is ‘not inevitable’.

‘Suicide is likely to become a more pressing concern as the pandemic spreads and has longer-term effects on the general population, the economy, and vulnerable groups,’ they write.

‘Preventing suicide therefore needs urgent consideration. The response must capitalise on, but extend beyond, general mental health policies and practices.’

There is some evidence that suicides increased in the US during the 1918 flu pandemic, and among older people in Hong Kong during the Sars epidemic in the early 2000s.

The researchers say the likely adverse effects of coronavirus ‘might be exacerbated by fear, self-isolation and social distancing’.

Suicide risk may also be increased because of stigma towards people who have Covid-19, and their families.

‘Those with psychiatric disorders might experience worsening symptoms and others might develop new mental health problems, especially depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress,’ the group writes.

‘These mental health problems will be experienced by the general population and those with high levels of exposure to illness caused by Covid-19, such as frontline healthcare workers and those who develop the illness.’