A new study says 1 in 10 Australian health care workers has had thoughts of suicide or self-harm during the pandemic.
The authors of the Australian Frontline Health Workers survey believe it is the world’s largest study of suicidal thoughts among health care workers. It canvassed the opinions of 8,000 staff, in a range of positions and professions, including support staff, cleaners, doctors and nurses.
The survey finds 10% of respondents have had thoughts of self-harm or suicide during the pandemic, but fewer than half had sought help from a mental health professional.
Even before the emergence of COVID-19, Australian health workers had higher rates of suicide than those in other occupations.
The study’s authors said that emotional exhaustion and burnout were common among many respondents. What is unclear is the impact stress, which could cause more medical errors, has had on the quality of patient care.
Georgina Lonergan, a nuclear medicine technologist in Victoria state, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that her job was extremely stressful.
“There is an undercurrent of anxiety, I think, for everyone working in health care,” she said. “I have definitely had an undercurrent of anxiety increasing over the last couple of years. Some days you just really don’t want to come. There has been a couple of days where I have been close to tears on the way in just from anxiety and just being tired of it all.”
The survey was published Wednesday in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.
Much of Australia continues to battle a wave of omicron variant infections. Government data has shown that more than 3,500 people are in the hospital with the virus.
Since the pandemic began, Australia has detected 2.4 million coronavirus cases; 4,366 people have died, according to the Health Department.