National Memorial Tree Planting Campaign

In the UK one doctor takes their own life every three weeks and one nurse takes their own life every three days. This is a shocking statistic. Together with our patron Adam Kay Doctors in Distress has launched a National Memorial tree planting campaign to plant a tree in every trust across the UK to remember those who have died by suicide. This is not only important for these healthcare workers, but also for their colleagues. If you would like to plant a tree at your trust please contact us.

doctors in distress national tree planting campaign

4 August 2022: Shruti’s Tree at Ealing Hospital

A memorial tree was planted at Ealing Hospital for health care professionals who have taken their own lives.

The idea came from writer Adam Kay, who helped plant the tree. Adam wrote the bestselling book This is Going To Hurt, which later became a BBC TV series about his time as a trainee doctor in Ealing Hospital.

Much of the TV show was shot at Ealing Hospital. There is a scene near the end where a junior doctor, Shruti takes her life and there’s a memorial tree planted in the show. After the show was aired people got in touch saying they looked for the tree and couldn’t find it. It wasn’t there as it was a show prop that was taken away at the end of the filming. Adam realised that it was not foolish in the slightest to expect to see the tree. He felt there should be a memorial to healthcare workers who have died by suicide.

Contact was made with Pippa Nightingale, the Chief Executive at Ealing Hospital, who supported the idea and helped make a memorial tree a reality. Joining Adam at the tree planting was Professor Sir Stephen Powis, National Medical Director at NHS
England, and Amandip Sidhu, Founder of Doctors in Distress.

Listen to interview with Adam and Amandip about the Ealing tree planting here.

2023 Doctors in Distress launched a national memorial tree planting programme

It is Adam’s vision that every single NHS Hospital Trust throughout England and Wales should commit to planting a tree which honours the memory of their colleagues who felt so isolated and alone that there seemed no option but to take their own lives. And, although, as Adam often says ’a tree is just a tree’, it is an astonishingly powerful metaphor.

A tree planted into the ground is only going to grow and thrive if it is cared for with love and attention; it is a symbol of life and a very real reminder that we all have a role to play if the stigma still surrounding the mental health of health professionals, and the unacceptable fact of so many suicides, is ever to be properly addressed and removed.

Adam Kay, a former doctor, can empathise with the moral dilemma that so many colleagues are facing and is devoting a considerable amount of his time to address the issue of suicide in the medical professions. At Doctors in Distress, we are working alongside him to encourage this ‘Memorial Tree Planting at NHS Hospital Trust’ to become a movement – a symbol of leadership teams which truly understand the pressure their people are under, and which will continue to find real ways to relieve this pressure – both in their hospitals and also in their wider dealings with decision-makers across the NHS.

These are the people who can help us to achieve the transformational change that these trees symbolise – Ann Paul CEO Doctors in Distress

11 May 2023 Kingsway Hospital Derby

Adam Kay, joined Mark Powell, Chief Executive at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Dr Arun Chidambaram, the Trust’s Medical Director. Professor Subodh Dave, Consultant Psychiatrist at Derbyshire Healthcare, Trustee of Doctors in Distress and Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, alongside other representatives of Doctors in Distress.

Adam Kay, said: “The facts that one NHS doctor takes their life every three weeks, one nurse dies by suicide every week are horrifying and almost unbelievable statistics. Sadly, it’s one that has been brushed under hospital carpets for many years, with no real sign of change. The first step in solving a problem must be in admitting that the problem exists. I’m very proud to support Doctors in Distress in raising awareness of this vital issue and protecting the mental health of healthcare workers.”

Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Trustee of Doctors in Distress, Professor Subodh Dave said:

“As a trustee of Doctors in Distress as well as a consultant psychiatrist within Derbyshire Healthcare, I am really pleased to be associated with this event.  Sadly, most people working in the health services will experience the death by suicide of a colleague at some point in their career.  Doctors in Distress is working to protect the mental health of all healthcare professionals and to stop suicide.”

Dr Arun Chidambaram, Medical Director at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said:

“The mental health and wellbeing of colleagues working in all roles across the NHS is hugely important. As a provider of mental health services, we are committed to supporting colleagues with all aspects of their wellbeing. We planned this tree in recognition of the challenges experiences by healthcare professionals and the importance of good mental health to everyone in society.”

25th May Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust

Adam Kay
We wish to have a tree to commemorate the deaths by suicide of our colleagues in the health service. A tree will be very symbolic and a visible reminder for everyone of the imperative to prevent stress and burnout. We know that if we help our colleagues early enough, we will help to prevent suicide. These Memorial Trees also provide a challenge to the hospital leadership to provide for the welfare of their workforce.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GP and immediate past Chair of the BMA
As a newly appointed trustee of Doctors in Distress, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to help to highlight a serious issue facing the whole of the medical profession, not only doctors. We have all experienced the reality of colleagues dying by suicide and this continues far too regularly. I believe that we need to continue to draw attention to the mental health of our medical workforce. Doctors in Distress is working to protect the mental health of all healthcare professionals
and to stop suicide.

Prof Paul Fish, CEO of RNOH
The issue of suicide within the medical profession is a very real one and many of us will have been affected by such a tragedy. Only by beginning to acknowledge this problem can we start to address
the factors that lead to suicide among our colleagues. The fact that the rate of suicide among healthcare workers is higher than the general population speaks to the stress and pressure many colleagues find themselves under. This is why we must do all we can to put in place mental health and emotional support for colleagues. Any of us can be affected at any time, nobody is immune, and we all need protection. RNOH is proud to support Doctors in Distress to highlight this important issue, recognise the lives lost, and prevent further suicides.

6 July 2023 Sandwell General Hospital, West Bromwich

Adam Kay was joined by Dr Ananta Dave, the Chief Medical Officer of the Black Country ICS and a trustee of Doctors in Distress, Richard Beeken, CEO of The Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Hospitals Trust, and other representatives of the Trust and of Doctors in Distress. Those assembled spoke of the dedication to health workers who have died by suicide and emphasised why this initiative is so important.

The rate of suicide in the health sector is higher than the general population. Levels of burnout, anxiety and depression amongst medical personnel are at an all-time high and account both for time lost to sickness and a lack of retention within the workforce. Having a symbolic ceremony and a designated place at each hospital to remember workers lost would be a way to draw attention to health worker suicide and (through public awareness) to help prevent it continuing in the future.