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

Break the taboo on these doctors, nurses and pharmacists who end their lives. This is the objective of the Care for Health Professionals (SPS) association, which launched its suicide prevention campaign among caregivers on Tuesday August 30. Through a “shock” film, SPS wants to “raise awareness” of this scourge. Because even today, at least “three caregivers commit suicide every two days”, deplores the association, whose distress calls on its toll-free number are becoming more and more 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 prevention campaign against caregiver suicide: a shocking film featuring three health professionals (doctors and nurses) taking their own lives under the dumbfounded eyes of a hospitalized patient. Images that are rarely visible, but whose distribution today seems necessary to “raising awareness” So “taboo” what does the suicide of those who care for us represent, believes Dr. Henry.

“Suicide is a taboo subject because it is an observation that our society would be pathological”adds the practitioner, who says he is himself “son of suicide of the National Education of the 1970s”. 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 being spared. But “nobody saw him or everyone refused to see him” so far. Through this campaign, SPS exposes to the eyes of all – caregivers themselves, patients and public authorities – the “scream of pain” health professionals.

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

“The figures concerning 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 intern 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 to 60% of hospital caregivers suffered from burnout. A non-negligible part was also subject to depression, sleep disorders or risky behavior (smoking, alcohol, etc.). The health crisis linked to the Covid-19 epidemic has only exacerbated the difficulties already encountered by caregivers.

“Institutionalized Abuse”

Magali Briane identifies two main determinants specific to caregivers. First, the significant emotional charge linked to their exercise, which results in over-solicitation. “When relatives asked me ‘How do you deal with the suffering of your patients?’. I was answering ‘I leave my office, I get in my car and it’s over, I think of something else’. I now know that is not true. But I have emotional regulation tools to do with that. Not all of our caregivers know them,” she explains.

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

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

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