Three caregivers commit suicide every two days: “Before they told us not to talk about it so as not to damage the profession”

Three caregivers commit suicide every two days: "Before they told us not to talk about it so as not to damage the profession"

Break the taboo about these doctors, nurses and pharmacists who take their lives. This is the goal of the Care for Health Professionals (SPS) association, which on Tuesday, August 30, launched its suicide prevention campaign among caregivers. Through a “shock” movie, SPS wants to “raise awareness” about this scourge. Because even today, at least “three carers commit suicide every two days”, regrets the association, whose calls for help to its toll-free number are increasingly numerous.

“We are whistleblowers” says Dr. Éric Henry, general practitioner in Auray (Morbihan) and president of the Care for Health Professionals (SPS) association. This Tuesday, August 30, SPS presented its suicide prevention campaign for caregivers: a shocking film in which three health professionals (doctors and nurses) take their own lives before the astonished gaze of a hospitalized patient. Images that are rarely visible, but whose distribution today seems necessary to “create awareness” about it “taboo” what represents the suicide of those who care for us, believes Dr. Henry.

“Suicide is a taboo subject because it is an observation that our society would be pathological”adds the practitioner, who claims to be himself “son of the suicide of the National Education of the 70s”. If more than 9,000 deaths by suicide are recorded each year in France (according to Inserm data from 2017), health professionals are far from saved. But “no one saw it or everyone refused to see it” so far. Through this campaign, SPS exposes to everyone’s eyes -carers, patients and public authorities- the “scream of pain” healthcare professionals.

Based on official figures, “that deserve to be updated”, the association estimates “Three the number of caregivers commit suicide every two days”. “In order not to get caught, we have stayed very factual and started from the classic population figures. So there are probably more than three suicides every two days.”, clarifies Eric Henry. In its definition of caregivers, SPS includes all health professionals: medical and paramedical professions, but also administrative ones (health executives, directors of establishments, etc.), medico-social professions and other professions (chiropractors, osteopaths, veterinarians, etc.). Which, in total, represents a group of 3.5 million people.

“The numbers of caregivers are catastrophic”, reports Magali Briane, psychiatrist and vice president of the association. Several studies show the real suffering of these professionals. The Stéthos study (2017) for SPS shows that during their career, 25% of them have already had work-related suicidal thoughts. In 2021, the National Intersyndicale des Internes (Isni) reported 1 inmate suicide every 18 days. An intern is also three times more likely to commit suicide than a Frenchman of the same age. More recently, in 2022, the Amadeus study showed that 50-60% of caregivers in hospitals suffered from burnout. A non-negligible part was also subject to depression, sleep disorders or risk behaviors (smoking, alcohol, etc.). The health crisis linked to the Covid-19 epidemic has only exacerbated the difficulties that caregivers are already facing.

“Institutionalized abuse”

Magali Briane identifies two main determinants specific to caregivers. In the first place, the significant emotional burden linked to their exercise, which translates into over-request. “When relatives asked me ‘How do you deal with the suffering of your patients?’ i was replying ‘I leave my office, I get in the car and it’s over, I think of something else.’ Now I know that is not true. But I have emotional regulation tools to do it. Not all of our caregivers know about them,” she explains.

The psychiatrist also notes a form of stigmatization of the caregivers’ suffering. “You have to manage to strengthen their personal resources and tell them that it is normal for them to suffer. When young people arrive at their studies, we don’t tell them that. On the contrary, we tell them that they are going to be caregivers and they are going to have to be strong. Because if you are not strong, you cannot heal others. That is not true. You can heal yourself very well, even if you yourself cry sometimes. It does not matter. You are not bad caregivers, but today the students who are not doing well are isolating themselves”, points out the specialist.

Laurence Marbach can attest to this. On May 12, 2019, one…

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