Despite mental health becoming a widely talked about subject, it remains a huge factor in everyday lives, including those of us who work in healthcare.
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Often, those of us who work in the health sector keep it hidden away through fear of judgement and sometimes embarrassment or shame; I want to share my own personal experiences with mental health and opinions on ways we might be able to break down the walls for others.
My Own Journey
In November 2017, I was two months into my final year as an adult Nursing student.
It had been a tough few months with the death of a friend, a severely fractured finger requiring surgery and all the pressures of a Nursing degree.
I had not prioritised myself and just tried to continue as normal, however normal had changed.
My fun and outgoing personality was disappearing, I was withdrawing from social interactions and everything in life just seemed like a huge effort.
I decided to visit my GP expecting to be told I had a virus, given some antibiotics and all will be well.
Shockingly, to my amazement, the Doctor diagnosed me with depression and advised I take at least two weeks away from university to evaluate.
Two weeks turned into twelve weeks in which time I took a short break away from everything and everyone I knew to just try and find myself and where I could go from here.
When returning home, I contacted a help group who put me a on a cognitive behavioural therapy course, and this was the real turning point for me.
I started to find enjoyment in simple activities and begin to engage in social activities again.
Now, three years on, I’m happy to say I have not ended up in that position again but that is due to ensuring I understand my own triggers and having coping mechanisms for tough periods or situations that may arise.
What Do You Think?
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Mental Health Triggers
Working in healthcare is a stressful job but there are certainly factors which contribute to making days harder.
The Covid 19 pandemic has undoubtably taken its toll on many staff with the pressures of an unknown virus causing several deaths of both patients and colleagues a like and at times seeing no way forward what is to come.
Colleagues have taken time off with illness, burnout and some have even been diagnosed with PTSD.
I have personally also witnessed people’s mental health being challenged through everyday challenges of hospital ward work.
How Can We Help?
Hopefully, for most of us, we will not have to work through another new and unknown pandemic as we begin to live with Covid 19.
In the event of another similar situation, supporting each other by simply asking ‘are you ok?’ or taking the time to help each other if time allows.
On breaks, talk to each other rather than spend the whole break on your mobile phones.
Short staffing levels are unlikely to change so try to make an effort when someone is sent to you ward to help cover shortages.
Introduce yourself, make sure they know where things are and just help them whenever you are able (just remember this could be you one day).
So, the toughest and hardest part to talk about is colleague interaction.
I am sure that, unfortunately, we have all been witness to some poor professionalism from colleagues whether that be rudeness towards someone, a conversation in an inappropriate place or refusal to help a colleague without a legitimate reason.
There is no excuse for rudeness so please feel able to call that person out, however, do so in a professional manner.
Members of staff being brought to attention for failure to complete a task should be done so in a private place and not in corridors or Nurses’ station which is all too common.
If you have a student in your work area, please ask them their name and don’t refer to them as ‘student’.
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What Help Is Out There?
Everybody has access to occupational health teams who are good for signposting and advising what is available and ways forward with your concerns.
Sometimes, you may not feel comfortable accessing this because of shame or fear of others finding out, so there is an option to contact local services in your area.
In fact, personally, I did this through speaking to my GP and he was able to offer some contact details.
So, going forward there are many options as everyone is individual. For me, cognitive behavioural therapy was a great tool, but others may prefer one to one meeting or perhaps group conversations.
There is also meditation/yoga etc which people find relaxing and often a good way to calm and separate their emotions.
Diaries can also be a good way to write down what is going on, perhaps identifying good parts of the day and what are the potential triggers.
Appointments with Doctors may also look at the potential of taking medication short term to help with mood etc but I personally did not want to take this route, due to potential side effects that may come with taking the medications.
Points To Take Away
There is so much more that could be covered but what I ask you to take away is the following:
• Every conversation or action you take can have a consequence to others so please bare that in mind
• There is always help there and make sure you take it or at least explore the options • Simple hellos or smiles can be a positive in anyone’s day
• The most obvious but often ignored – ‘Are you ok?’, 'Is there anything I can do to help?'