Counselor’s Desk: The reality of nursing and depression

As a nurse for many years I have dealt with some difficult situations: some that have brought me to tears, some that have made me extremely angry and some that have made me feel like I was in a sinking hole and was never going to get out. A lot of nurses deal with daily stressors that put a lot on them such as the death of a patient, a difficult co-worker, a difficult job, long shifts that take away from home life. The nursing culture is ruthless by nature.

Some nurses are dealing with clinical depression and may not even know they have it. It’s like cardiac disease; you don’t know you have it because you have missed the warning signs. Tears build in your eyes before a shift. Your mind is playing scenarios over and over. You feel wound up and tired. One part of you wants to scream and one part wants to break down and sob. But nurses can’t do this because they are “the nurse.” They are responsible for the nurturing, comfort and care of others. The signs are there, but you push them aside because, once again, someone is relying on you.

Depression is an epidemic among nurses, but you don’t want to talk about it because that puts a label on you that you have something wrong with you. But not getting the help you need only makes the problem worse. Nine percent of the population suffers with depression, but 18 percent of nurses suffer with symptoms of it and most let it go ignored. The culture of survival for nurses tends to make us always feel under tension and that can lead to stress, depression and anxiety. We ignore it because those feelings only make us look weak. But in reality, it is making the problem worse. Those feelings are only going to cause greater problems down the line.

If someone you know is suffering from signs of depression, anxiety or stress, please encourage them to get help. The signs may be small or unnoticeable, but they can lead to greater problems. Warning signs can include changed or altered feelings, loss of interest, fatigue, change in sleep patterns, anxiety, irritability, appetite and weight changes, uncontrolled emotions and thoughts of or preoccupations with death.

If someone you know is dealing with mental health issues and/or addiction of any kind, please call Tombigbee Outreach for more information on getting help, 334-212-2220.

Katie Barley is the Registered Nurse for Tombigbee Outreach. For more information about Tombigbee Outreach, call 334-287-2428.