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Fostering Mental Health Wellness for Nurses

May 26, 2022
Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C

The mental health of nurses is a critical topic that needs to be discussed. A survey submitted by the American Nurses Foundation found that from June 2020 to December 2020–there was a 10% increase in the number of nurses who felt feelings of depression. Another study published in 2021 indicated that nurses have a higher rate of suicide than the general population. 

Why Mental Health is so important for nurses

Nursing is a wonderful career but can be challenging at times. It can be physically and mentally taxing, and at times it seems to be a thankless profession. It is not uncommon to feel stress and pressure throughout the day, especially when thinking about all the tasks the nurse needs to complete in the 8-12 hour day, including communication with patients, family members, and the healthcare team to ensure the patients receive the best care possible.  

The stress and pressure from the day can impact a nurse's mental health–and often not in a positive way. It may lead to anxiety, depression, and burnout. This may lead to poor concentration and time management at work–preventing you from getting tasks done and further increasing the pressure and stress felt at work. This stress and pressure may lead to medication errors,  poor communication, and potentially poor outcomes for the patient. It may also lead to a nurse performing a task or skill they have not received adequate training or feel comfortable completing due to pressure from the healthcare team and staff. 

The feelings of anxiety, depression, burnout, etc., do not just impact a nurse's work-life but can also be carried over into their relationships, both at work and home. A nurse who may be struggling with their mental health may start to withdraw from their family and friends. They may also begin to communicate less with those they love, appear more angry or frustrated at home, and not want to do the activities they used to enjoy. 

What recent events propose mental health awareness recently in the nursing world 

Mental health awareness in nurses is becoming more apparent due to the rising number of suicides discussed in articles worldwide. It appears evident that there is a problem with nurses getting mental health help and support when they need it most. Many articles correlate the increase in nurse suicides to burnout and the Covid-19 pandemic. And while this may be true, there is a clear need to better support nurses and their mental health. 

How nurses can help one another with mental health 

Nurses can help other nurses with their mental health based on their comfort level and relationship with their peers. Below are 3 ways nurses can help one another with their mental health. 

Provide Support: This is one of the greatest tools a nurse has–and what makes it easy is that there are endless ways to show your support. A nurse can show support by ensuring your co-workers get their breaks throughout their shift. Being a sounding board for co-workers can be a way to show support. Let them share or even vent their frustrations to you–sometimes we just need someone to listen and hear us. Helping a new-graduate or float nurse by being available throughout the shift and helping as needed can be another form of support. The ways to show support are endless! 

Show friendship and kindness to each other: Kindness goes a long way–so be kind to coworkers. Receiving kindness and respect from others is invaluable and can definitely help support your mental health by knowing you are not alone. 

Share available mental health resources: If one of your co-workers is struggling with mental health, don’t hesitate to provide them with a list of resources that may help. A conversation or note slipped into their locker with a list of resources may be all a peer needs. If you have used any of the resources yourself and feel comfortable sharing that, let that person know what worked or helped you.

Resources for nurses that support mental health 

Fortunately, there are many resources available to nurses to help support their mental health, and they include all different types of platforms or techniques. Below is a list of a few resources available to nurses right now–but please keep in mind this is only a snapshot of what is available. 

5 resouces that support mental health

Well-Being Initiative through the ANA: The purpose of the Well-Being Initiative through the ANA is to support the mental health of nurses. The website provides information on apps and tools that support nurses' mental health and wellness, including a podcast, tips to sleep better, support services, therapy, self-stress assessment, and many others.  

National Alliance of Mental Illness: The National Alliance of Mental Illness has a page directed toward healthcare professionals and provides many resources to support mental health. Some of the resources include a list of free confidential and virtual support services for healthcare professionals, peer support groups, wellness resources, and many others. 

Apps directed towards mental health support: Apps are a great tool that a nurse can use to support mental health–and are convenient because you can download them directly to your phone and always have it with you. Some examples of these apps include Headspace, Happify, and Worry Watch.

Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation: The Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation (HNHN) program is through the American Nurses Association Enterprise to improve nurses' overall health, including their mental health. Besides providing "challenges" for the aspect of health you want to tackle, they also help connect you with others for support and encouragement through your journey. 

Telehealth Resources: Telehealth is an excellent option for nurses to meet with mental health experts. These appointments may be with your local doctor or therapist but may also be through one of the emerging telehealth programs such as Talkspace or Better Health. Telehealth is convenient because you can complete your appointment anywhere, providing greater flexibility to meet your mental health needs. 

You are not alone

The mental health of nurses is essential! Thankfully more resources are available to help nurses and other healthcare workers to support their mental health. The information above is just the beginning of the resources available. If you see one of your peers struggling, do not hesitate to reach out and offer support to them. And if you find yourself struggling, please know you are not alone and seek help immediately.

All nurses who take a Trusted contract get access to five wellness programs free of charge. Learn more about the program and sign up with Trusted to travel today.