A pathway to a healthier you


Has something very stressful happened to you recently? Have you ever thought about harming yourself? If the answer is yes, and you’re a nurse or midwife then you’re not alone. 

Nurses and midwives are at greater risk than their healthcare colleagues of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. 

Why we are at risk – work factors

Some of the reasons for higher rates of self-harm and suicidal thoughts in our professions are the particularly demanding nature of the job, long and often unsocial hours, precarious work life balance. 

Suicide and self-harm are the most serious consequences of exposure to risks and experiences of psychosocial harm in the workplace, especially during crises. 

A Monash University (2022) study found the risk of suicide more prevalent in certain occupations such as midwifery and nursing, with:

  • high demands
  • low autonomy or control
  • shift work
  • physical danger
  • access to lethal means of suicide such as medications. 

Health and life stages that increase your risk

Thoughts of suicide of self-harm can be related to burnout, depression, anxiety and PTSD. Substance misuse and poor physical health are also risk factors. The younger you are, the higher you are at risk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Statistics and risks aside, the reality is it can happen to anyone at any stage in life.  

Talking can help

Beginning to articulate and talk about these thoughts with someone, let alone process how you may be feeling can be overwhelming and exhausting. 

Addressing self-harm and suicidal thoughts may take time but experienced nurses and midwives can listen and help you navigate to a safer space in the short-term and explore some longer-term options for support. 

Remember, you’re not alone. For a compassionate, judgement free confidential chat, call us.  

If you’re worried about a colleague or someone else close to you, call us to talk about how you might best broach it with them.

Negative thoughts?

Our experienced nurses and midwives listen and help you navigate to a safer space. 

Suicidal thoughts are

  • clear and specific plans to take your own life
  • less-defined ideas that you no longer wish to live
  • more frequent thoughts about dying.  

In a 2020 study of 7,795 healthcare professionals, of which 3,053 were nurses – 41% of participants reported occasional and 44% frequent thoughts of suicide or self-harm (Bismark et al., 2022). 

The rate of suicide for Australian female nurses and midwives is nearly three times higher than of females in other professions. For male nurses and midwives, the suicide rate is almost double that of males in other professions (Milner et al., 2016) 

Nurses are incredibly good at looking after patients but we must make sure that they are looking after themselves
Suicide is preventable and we must make sure that families and work colleagues look out for warning signs and support vulnerable individuals who may be at risk
Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN


  • Milner AJ, Maheen H, Bismark MM, Spittal MJ. Suicide by health professionals: a retrospective mortality study in Australia, 2001-2012. Med J Aust 2016; 205(6): 260-5.  
  • Bismark M, Smallwood N, Jain R, Willis K. Thoughts of suicide or self-harm among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: qualitative analysis of open-ended survey responses. BJPsych Open 2022; 8(4): e113.  
  • Case R, Alabakis J, Bowles K-A, Smith K: Suicide prevention in high-risk occupations: an Evidence Check rapid review brokered by the Sax Institute (www.saxinstitute.org.au) for the NSW Ministry of Health, 2020. doi:10.57022/zfla9501 [Media release: Monash University report identifies occupations with greater risk of suicide - Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences 
I thought ‘I’m failing at everything. People would be better off if I wasn’t here.’ Feelings of failing my family were ever present. I realised I was failing them anyway, and perhaps dying was the other option. I didn’t want that
Victorian RN Terry

Male nurses and midwives are at particular risk, with “occupational gender norms and anxiety about perceived stigma … due to the traditionally feminised characterisation of such roles,” Monash University report 2020 

If you need immediate help

The following helplines provide telephone crisis support and counselling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and online assistance (limited hours, depending on the service):