Nurse Suicide: Breaking the SilencePage 3 of 10

1 Abstract

[All authors are listed individually following the Conclusion.]

The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness of and begin to build an open dialogue regarding nurse suicide. Recent exposure to nurse suicide raised our awareness and concern, but it was disarming to find no organization-specific, local, state, or national mechanisms in place to track and report the number or context of nurse suicides in the United States.

This paper describes our initial exploration as we attempted to uncover what is known about the prevalence of nurse suicide in the United States. Our goal is to break through the culture of silence regarding suicide among nurses so that realistic and accurate appraisals of risk can be established and preventive measures can be developed.

Change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it.

President Barack Obama

The available U.S. data on nurse suicide are outdated [2-8] yet provide clues that suicide may be a risk of the nursing profession. The purpose of this paper is to begin breaking through the silence surrounding nurse suicide by commenting on the authors’ collective experiences following exposure to nurse suicide.

We describe our quest to understand the frequency and underlying causes of nurse suicide and suggest strategies on how to move forward. While nurses face a number of mental health and psychological challenges—including anxiety, compassion fatigue, depression, ethical issues, and second-victim syndrome—the focus of this paper is on the most silent, irreversible, and devastating mental health scourge: suicide. Three examples from nurses regarding actual experiences with nurse suicide and suicidal ideation are explored. Cases are blinded for privacy and occurred at more than one organization.