It’s estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) that one in four people will suffer from a severe mental health problem at some point in our lives – including depression, high levels of stress, or anxiety and panic attacks, among other issues.
And though the climate of mental health is becoming more open, and people are feeling more free to discuss their mental struggles without the stigma that has been present in the past, there are still many people who hide their mental struggles, especially in the workplace. This is common among all industries – but especially in the high-stress, demanding work environment of the typical hospital.
While there is no evidence to show that nurses are more likely to suffer from mental health issues than any other person, the environment of a hospital and the attitudes of other nurses can often make it hard to share the issues that you’re going through.
After all, we nurses are supposed to be caregivers – not require care to function. For a nurse, being honest about the fact that stress or depression is having an effect on our lives can often feel the same as admitting failure.
But what can be done? In this article, we’ll look at several ways that the mental health taboo can be broken in the nursing industry – and in the workplace at large.
First, Release The Pressure
The workplace may not be the primary cause of stress or mental issues in most of our lives, but often, a high-stress work environment can be a contributing factor. An over-emphasis on performance at all costs, and at professional improvement over personal well-being isn’t just common in the business world – it’s common in nursing too.
This kind of attitude can compound with the naturally high-stress environment of a nurse, and lead to severe mental issues that may go unnoticed – until it’s too late.
However, steps can be taken towards a healthier nursing environment. Flexible scheduling is helpful – allowing nurses to determine their workload in a more proactive way can lead to reduced stress and a lower risk of mental health issues.
Supervisors and nurse administrators should also be aware of warning signs that nurses are stressed – and allow them the space that they need, to decompress. If you’re a nurse administrator and you see a nurse who is really struggling, approach them. Let them know that you understand the difficulties and trials that they’re going through, and that it’s nothing to be ashamed about.
Creating a lower-stress environment allows nurses a way to more easily express the toll that their work is taking on their mental state – and this can allow administrative staff to take appropriate action before the condition of nurses deteriorates.
Don’t Hide The Truth
If you are a nurse who is struggling with mental health issues, you are not alone – and you don’t have to hide.
You’re a nurse. You know what happens to someone who has diabetes and it doesn’t get treated – they go blind, lose their extremities, and suffer other severe physical symptoms. The fact that your illness is mental doesn’t change the fact that it exists – and that it won’t get better unless you seek treatment.
Speak to your supervisor about your mental health issues. The most pernicious thing about mental health problems is that they can’t always be readily seen. If you’re over stressed and anxious and having panic attacks every day, your supervisor may not even know.
Admitting that you have a problem is the first step toward treatment, and though it’s difficult for nurses (especially male nurses) to admit that they may have a problem, it’s absolutely crucial that they seek treatment when appropriate.