Mental health workers form an integral part of society, especially now with mental health disorders on the rise. According to the World Health Organization, around 25% of the world will suffer from a neurological or mental disturbance at some point in their lives.
A new report entitled “Struggling to Cope” details just how difficult it is to be a mental health worker, Newsweek reports. Within the past year alone, two out of five National Health Service (NHS) have suffered physical assault at the hands of their patients. This includes being bitten, strangled, headbutted and others, according to a survey of over a thousand mental health workers who described their personal experiences to Unison, one of the United Kindgom’s biggest trade unions.
One worker said,
On a daily basis I would say that patients are verbally aggressive. Rather than being an unusual occurrence I now consider this almost a default position for a large number of patients.
Many of the staff members who answered the survey say that these problems exist because of understaffing. Workers believe that the delays in treatment result in patients getting frustrated, hence they lash out more.
Sara Gorton, Unison’s head of health, said, “Severe staff shortages mean fewer mental health nurses to deal with a rising number of users with complex needs. As a result many staff are having to work alone, making violent attacks more likely.”
Another report conducted by the Investigates team at the BBC’s 5 live showed that there were over 42,000 physical attacks on mental health workers in the UK from 2016 to 2017 alone. The number of reported assaults was highest in England, compared to data from 2012 to 2013. There was little to no rise in incidences in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Mary Elliffee, from Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said, “I think the evidence is in the stuff that we found. 147 knives being retrieved…That’s 147 opportunities we’ve had to prevent instances of serious harm.”
The trust helps in searching patients for dangerous items when they are admitted to a ward, the report said.