Each year, 1 in 5 people are diagnosed with some form of a mental illness. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, to promote awareness and fight its stigma, provide support and to offer helpful information to the public about mental illnesses. According to a Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 6 in 10 health care workers say the pandemic has burned them out.
However, among nurses, depression and burnout is not a new epidemic, says a report in Minority Nurse. Nurses experience clinical depression at twice the rate of the general public: depression impacts 9% of everyday citizens, but 18% of nurses experience symptoms of depression.
“Depression is like a cardiac disease: you don’t know you have it. You don’t realize the subtleties,” says Louise Weadock, MPH, RN, founder of ACCESS Nursing Services. She offers these tips for nurses to help improve their mental health:
- Prioritize Self-Care: While busy taking care of others, nurses often forget the importance of self-care. Nurses should fit “me time” into their daily routines, which can be done by making simple lifestyle changes. Try waking up earlier to carve out some time for meditation and yoga.
- Expand your Network: Joining an online support group will allow nurses to connect with other nurses who have similar experiences. Talking to others who can relate to their situation will have a positive impact on the individual, as well as other nurses who are struggling. At the height of the pandemic in New York, Weadock started an online “COVID Couch” support group. After a phone call with one of her nurses who was in tears, Weadock then “decided to start the COVID Couch — a weekly video meeting that nurses can join to talk about what they’re experiencing and to remember they’re not alone in it.”
- Leave Toxic Work Environments: Weadock suggests that mental health reform starts with the manager and to make sure that you work in an environment where you feel comfortable expressing your concerns. “Nurses can’t help it when they are feeling depressed. Management needs to lift the RN up by promoting them to other suitable, supportive work environments, and to make reasonable accommodations for nurses whose cyclic phase of depression is negatively affecting their work performance,” explains Weadock.
ACCESS Nursing Services is currently seeking RNs, LPNs, and Aides throughout New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. For more information, visit the ACCESS Nursing careers page.