Watchdog is calling for the impact of menopause on mental health to be reviewed following the death of a 56-year-old NHS worker

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) has launched a national investigation following the death of an NHS worker who died by suicide in 2020. The patient was incorrectly assessed and, despite an oestrogen hormone being prescribed prior to her death, the findings reveal that her menopause was a ‘potentially unconsidered’ factor on the whole.

The death of Frances Wellburn has revealed a lack of training amongst mental health staff in spotting the risks of menopause on a national level. It was found that community mental health teams are not often trained in this area and, therefore, failed to consider menopause as a contributing factor in those needing help.

Experts in menopause added to the report by saying that the symptoms of menopause are often mistaken for depression, meaning people have often prescribed antidepressants when HRT would be more helpful.

The HSIB report also identified that a lack of capacity was forcing staff to use an ineffective ‘checklist’ style of assessment of suicidal patients. This led to many being categorised as  “low” or “medium” risk who then went on to take their own life. NHS England has since told HSIB that all hospitals have been reminded that these risk assessment tools are ineffective and should not be used.

The experts stated that it would be more beneficial to have women-specific healthcare services and mental health treatments that are designed to account for the age and sex of the patient.

Where can I find menopause support?

In this video, psychotherapeutic counsellor Kitt Murphy explains more about how counselling can help you through menopause.

If you’re struggling with the impact of menopause, know that you are not alone and there is support available:

  • The Menopause Charity is seeking to foster a world where people have evidence-based information and appropriate care and treatment.
  • Menopause Matters provides up-to-date information about menopause and treatment options.
  • Menopause Support is a not-for-profit community interest company that aims to ensure women do not suffer in silence.
  • Talking Menopause was set up to provide solutions for cultural change in talking about menopause in the workplace.
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal and is in immediate danger, please contact 999 or visit your local A&E.

Read the full report in the Independent.