A Mental Health Hotline to Help Nurses
Nurses are highly trained and used to managing pressure, healing others, and solving problems. However, the trauma of losing patients, high patient expectations, and adjusting to extra shifts can be stressful. Such factors are why organizations like the American Nursing Association (ANA) advocate for health systems and policymakers to prioritize nurses’ mental well-being.
People — even robust and resilient healthcare providers like nurses — have different coping capacities. A case that lingers in mind to distress one nurse may not upset another nurse at all. This may seem illogical and can sometimes cause anger and resentment, especially when a nurse does not feel understood.
Therefore, addressing mental health for nurses is urgent and also involves teaching nurses how to cope effectively with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Taking care of your mental health is not only good for you but also enables you to give your patients optimal care.
When to Seek Help
Signs of poor mental health can go unnoticed until they progress. It can also become a routine to assume the impacts of trauma and stress as you continuously fill extra shifts and connect and care for patients. Be aware of the signs, don’t be afraid to reach out, and don’t let symptoms of stress or trauma reach dangerous levels.
Self-care is essential, so you should check in with yourself regularly. Understand symptoms of mental exhaustion and be aware of how you feel during difficult shifts. Know that seeking mental help demonstrates self-love and strength, not weakness. Here are some signs that it’s time to reach out for help.
Sleeping Too Much
Sleeping longer than usual to recover from an unusually long and demanding workday is normal. Sleeping more than necessary most of the time is not. Additionally, you may always feel fatigued or find it difficult to sleep because of a lack of recovery time.
Symptoms of Depression or Anxiety
You may notice increasing and persistent feelings of sadness, worthlessness, hopelessness, anger, or irritability. You may feel like things never go right and seldom be happy. Anger and irritability are also prevalent symptoms. You may lose patience over things that you used to take in stride. You may also feel like lashing out at the slightest provocation — and feel guilty about it.
Anxiety may exist on its own or be a sign of depression. You may dread the future, worrying about what bad thing is going to happen next.
Isolation and Loneliness
Distrusting others and isolating yourself is another symptom. Feeling like you have no one to talk to despite being surrounded by good and trustworthy friends is also common. You prefer being alone, yet feel lonely. You may want to visit with and talk to people but feel socially awkward and isolate yourself instead. You lose interest in things that used to bring you joy and often question whether people genuinely care about you.
Being Unable to Let Go of Past Trauma
When you relive traumatic events, you struggle to forget the suffering you’ve seen and the losses you’ve experienced. You want nothing more than to get peaceful sleep, but memories of such events keep reappearing unexpectedly and leave you mentally exhausted.
Compassion fatigue is an occupational hazard for nurses. Empathizing becomes difficult, and you become bothered by situations or decisions that feel wrong. You may also feel that caring is tiresome, and expressing it feels like a constant struggle.
You can also experience physical symptoms that affect productivity, including:
- Unexpected, unexplained headaches or backaches
- Reproductive and/or sexual issues
- Appetite and/or digestive issues
Cumulative trauma and stress can cause different troubling responses and emotions. These feelings and experiences and normal, but they can cause severe physical and mental exhaustion. Acknowledging such feelings does not mean that you have a long-term mental disorder, but addressing them promptly is essential.
Professional and Confidential Support
Professional mental helpers are confident and reliable. Not only do they guarantee the privacy of patients’ information, but they also ensure an environment of understanding and no judgment.
In spite of this, many nurses are hesitant to seek professional support. Common reasons include potential risk to their licenses and concerns over what colleagues might think. Such concerns are valid, more so because it can be difficult to accept that you need help when you work hard to support other people’s health and wellness.
However, we all need help sometimes despite not being accustomed to being on the receiving end. Besides, some aspects of nursing, like patient loss, can have negative impacts. In such situations, professional support is the best option, especially when other forms of support and self-care don’t seem to be working.
Professional support safeguards your interest and seeks to achieve long-term healing and wellness. Professional mental helpers monitor your progress after healing to prevent a recurrence. Find the one you are most comfortable with.
Mental Health Hotlines for Nurses
Reaching out saves lives. The National Mental Health hotlines, which you can explore at mentalhealthhotline.org, can connect you with professionals who are happy to listen and help with mental health crises. The services are free, and confidentiality is guaranteed.
The website has dedicated hotlines for anxiety, PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, psychosis, and schizophrenia. This makes it easier to select the hotline that best suits your needs. You can also search for additional resources by state.
Additionally, the Mental Health Hotline website educates you about mental health issues and their implications. It also has information about mental health support institutions and how they operate.
You also get in-depth information about resources like support groups and websites. Moreover, callers learn about types of mental illnesses, their impact, and their symptoms. Therefore, there is vast information and assistance on identifying and overcoming mental illnesses.
Peer Support Resources
Talking to peers in a support group is useful because they encounter similar challenges as you. They understand the daily frustrations of nursing and have overcome some depressing situations. Share your feelings with a trusted colleague, and you will likely feel instant relief.
Your peers stand with you and are ready to help you navigate your mental health journey. You can also offer assistance when you notice a peer is struggling. You may have noticed concerning signs and may lack the confidence or knowledge to offer help. The right action may require you to gather courage and ask a simple question like are you OK?
Simply put, support can start with a conversation. Do not wait for a colleague to ask for help, especially if you have noticed one is having a hard time. It may feel uncomfortable, but checking on someone and acknowledging that they may be having a rough time can provide much-needed relief.
It is crucial that you and your peers know that you don’t have to struggle alone. Equally important is ensuring your colleagues can access support and share crisis resources. Before leaving a support group meeting, make a plan to check on them and let them know you’re rooting for them.
Worrying is almost automatic when you are a family member of a nurse. You worry about how their career impacts the family, their well-being, and their health. Long working hours also mean that they miss out on special occasions and family events.
As a result, you may have to take on significant family responsibilities on your own. You may also notice that missing out on family gatherings and special moments affects your loved one’s mental health.
These stresses can be overwhelming, making you wonder how to be present for your family or provide mental and emotional support for a family member who is a nurse.
Inform your family members about the support you need. If you don’t have an existing family, you can share support and resources with others online. Confidentially sharing support, frustrations, humor, and concerns with people who understand you online can make you feel like you have a supportive and loving family.
As a nurse, you are accustomed to stress. It may seem like patient cases do not noticeably affect you. However, the National League for Nursing (NLN) states that the trauma of treating patients and daily stress can accumulate, potentially causing mental health disorders.
It may be easy to ignore what seems like an occasional or minor impact until it becomes clear that the impact is expanding in scope. Resiliency lowers the impacts of trauma and stress, providing a caution that helps maintain your well-being.
In addition, adding and strengthening protective factors like ensuring good physical health, access to resources, and social support can help you address cumulative stress effectively.
Nurses already understand and know the significance of physical health, but it is still possible to forget the basics because of shiftwork or hectic schedule. Physical and mental health are connected, so the most minor step you take to safeguard your physical health can improve your mental well-being.
You can implement different approaches to improve your resiliency skills and use them as preventive measures. Before getting into more detailed strategies, consider taking these steps:
- Acknowledge your feelings by identifying your emotions: fear, relief, sadness, guilt, anger, shock, frustration, etc. Understanding what you feel can help you coordinate with a professional mental helper to diagnose and treat a mental illness in time.
- Have compassion for yourself. You are human, and your work is stressful and demanding, so experiencing stress and burnout is common. Also, understand that people react to such emotions differently, so don’t feel guilty for needing professional help.
- Talk to someone about your feelings and symptoms, whether through professional channels or peer support. Remember, a problem shared is half solved.
- Remember that you need to care for yourself with the same intensity and attention you give your patients. Your health is equally important as theirs.
- Research go-to coping strategies and pick the ones that work for you.
Locate the Services You Need
There are different places you can get information to access the services and help you need. However, you must choose the place that feels most comfortable because seeking mental health services can be intimidating. It is OK to feel uncomfortable going to your employer for help. If this is the case, you can call the National Mental Health Hotline or visit your primary care provider. Here are additional resources to consider.
Seek advice from your human resources department about your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and your insurance coverage. The EAP can provide confidential and free assessments, follow-up services, referrals, and short-term counseling.
Primary Care Provider (PCP)
Call or visit your PCP and seek advice about the best mental health support you need. Also, confirm whether the services require a referral and whether your insurance covers them.
Your Local Community Mental Health Center/Mental Health Division
Access state-funded low-cost or free services and treatment. The State Mental Health Department requires the division first to serve people falling within the priority population criteria.
You’re Not Alone
The report from Trusted Nurses titled “The State of Mental Health in Nursing in 2022,” based on a survey of more than 2,500 nurses, found that 75% had experienced burnout. Compassion fatigue was an issue for 66%, and 64% reported feelings of depression.
Understand that mental health is not something to be embarrassed about and is common among healthcare professionals. Seeking help is also expected and allows for timely and professional interventions that promote your well-being. Call the National Mental Health Hotline to start getting the help you need and deserve.