Author and former doctor Adam Kay has planted a tree in memory of NHS staff who have died by suicide.
Hundreds of health professionals have taken their own lives in the past decade, with the demands of their jobs only intensifying throughout the pandemic.
The Gingko tree, which was funded by LNWH Charity, was planted outside Ealing Hospital. The hopsital was the location for hit BBC drama This is Going to Hurt, which was written by Kay and based on his real-life diaries from the hospital wards.
The show focused on the mental wellbeing of NHS staff working under extraordinary pressures and culminated in the death by suicide of a fictional junior doctor called Shruti
A moving scene sees a tree planted outside the hospital in Shruti’s memory, and sparked numerous real life visits from people trying to find the location.
The ensuing interest led to a conversation between Adam and the hospital trust and the agreement that a real tree would be a fitting tribute to NHS staff nationwide who have taken their lives.
Adam Kay said, “Suicide among healthcare workers has long been a taboo subject which has been ignored and brushed under the carpet. I will be forever grateful to the BBC for allowing me to bring this crucial topic to the attention on millions of viewers.
The plaque by the tree
“I have no doubt that talking more openly about mental health will save lives. My thanks go to the hospital trust for being wonderfully supportive of the first UK memorial to healthcare workers who have died by suicide.”
Pippa Nightingale Chief Executive of LNWH Trust, added: “I started my career as a midwife so am aware of the pressure frontline staff can find themselves under.
“I think the NHS has learnt a lot from the pandemic and the importance of providing better mental health and wellbeing support to staff. It is tragic that the people who care for us sometimes don’t feel they have someone to turn to themselves.”
The sentiment was echoed by Amandip Sidhu, founder of charity Doctors in Distress, whose brother took his life while working as a consultant cardiologist.
“My brother had a strong sense of duty. He didn’t want to let patients down and eventually allowed his own health to be compromised.
“The NHS has to do more to do to ensure a supporting and caring environment exists for all its staff. There is no healthcare without self-care and
Doctors in Distress is one charity that raise awareness of these issues providing a confidential support service as well as campaigning for positive change in the health service.
The Laura Hyde Foundation (LHF) also looks out for the mental welfare of all emergency services and medical workers following the death of nurse Laura Hyde.
More than 220 nurses tried to end their lives during the first year of the pandemic in 2020 with more than 300 deaths in the seven preceding years.
Liam Barnes, founder of LHF, said: “The main challenge is the feeling that you must maintain a stiff upper lip and that it is just part of the job. We must change attitude.
“No-one should not be weighed down by feelings of shame, weakness or a culture that prevents people getting the help they require.”
The ceremony was a poignant moment for Ealing surgeon Peter McDonald who remembers a colleague taking their own life due to work pressures earlier in his career.
Peter, 70, said: “I always stress to younger doctors the importance of not bottling things up and talking to someone. It’s not a sign of weakness and that other person can be a loved one, a friend, colleague or a therapist. We are all human at the end of the day.”