Breaking The Mental Health Taboo In The Nursing Industry

 In Nurses Weekly

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.

Don’t Be Ashamed

Mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed about. Just like any other disease, they can be mitigated, treated, and even cured. The first step is admitting to yourself that you need help and that you are willing to seek it – openly.

The mental health taboo in the nursing industry – and the workplace at large – stems from an unwillingness to communicate about the importance of mental health. From the perceived shame of needing help.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Standing up and admitting that you are overstressed, anxious, or depressed is the first step to creating a dialogue about the mental health conditions in the nursing industry.

Be brave. Be bold. And never be ashamed of your mental health issues. They do not define you – and they are not permanent.

Break The Taboo By Taking These Steps To A Healthier Workplace – And A Healthier You

Whether you’re having mental health issues or know another nurse who is struggling, you can break the taboo of discussing mental health in the workplace. Working together is the only means by which we can truly break free of the stigma that discussing mental health issues often carries in the nursing industry.

So focus on your mental health and that of your coworkers. Together, we can make the workplace a happier and less stressful place for everyone – and focus on delivering incredible patient care in a supportive, friendly environment. And that’s what we all want.

So be honest, be truthful, and never be ashamed of who you are – even if you’re struggling. That’s the first step towards success and to a better life.

(This story originally appeared in Scrubs magazine.)


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