Higher rate of suicide for police officers and nurses in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 2:53am

The suicide rate among nurses and police officers is 20 per cent higher than the overall suicide rate of working people, according to a report by researchers at the University of Hong Kong.

The rate among the employed from 2003 to 2010 was 7.8 per 100,000, rising to 9.4 for police and 9.5 per 100,000 for nurses, says a study by the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention. It was released to coincide with Monday's World Suicide Prevention Day.

Ironically, people in the "helping" and "caring" professions - such as nurses, policemen and teachers - have the most difficulty getting help and care when they need it, the researchers found.

"Nurses and the police are trained to solve others' problems, but often their own needs are neglected," said Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai of the centre. Social isolation created by shift work, high social expectations and increasing workload and pressure were major catalysts for suicide, he said.

Overall, 30 per cent of suicides in the city involve people with jobs, linked to pressure in the workplace causing poor mental health.

Health services legislator Dr Joseph Lee Kok-long said: "For us in the nursing industry, to ask for help conflicts with professional pride, it's our blind spot."

He said the nursing field was dominated by women whose free time outside work was limited and irregular because of shifts.

Researchers found that 54 per cent of nurses who took their lives were single.

"I hope this report can raise awareness within [the nursing community] but also in society so we remember that even those in caring professions need an outlet to get help," said Lee. "Asking for help is not unprofessional."

Yip suggested that hospitals and other centres give their employees confidential outlets to get help. On the overall state of mental well-being among the city's workers, Yip said: "We need to remember that we work to live, not live to work. Sometimes [companies] striving for excellence comes at great social cost when we care more about results than people."