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Depression In The Nursing Profession: Nurses Mental Health By Mbia Patience RN
Date Posted: 12/Dec/2019

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of despondency, self doubt, sadness and loss of interest which in turn causes feeling of worthlessness. It affects how one feel, think and behave. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems which one may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes may feel as if life isn't worth living.

Nurses mental health is of Paramount importance as the profession itself and in discharging nursing duties as Nurses.

One of the occupational stress associated with the nursing profession is depression. More nurses are experiencing depression and anxiety, caused by their jobs. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI), Nurses experience clinical depression at twice the rate of the general public. Depression affects 9% of everyday citizens, but 18% of Nurses experience symptoms of depression.

Nursing and mental health nursing is difficult, as It is fast paced and requires tremendous amounts of focus, energy, and responsibility making Nurses more prone to depression.


There are different types of depression. The symptoms for each can range from relatively minor through to very severe.

The main types of depression are:

Major depression

Dysthymic disorder

Bipolar disorder (which used to be called manic depression)

Cyclothymic disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).


Feelings of sadness,


Emptiness or hopelessness,

Angry outbursts,

Irritability or frustration even over small matters,

Suicidal thoughts,

Suicide attempts or suicide

Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death,

Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports,

Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much,

Tiredness and lack of energy even small tasks take extra effort,

Reduced appetite,  

Weight loss,

Weight gain,

Increased cravings for food,


Agitation or restlessness

Slowed thinking,

Feelings of worthlessness or guilt,

Fixating on past failures or self blame,

Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things,

Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches...



Short staffed leading to excess work load on the Nurse,

Working long hours especially facilities that run on two shifts instead of three shifts,

Being verbally and physically abused by patients and patient's relatives,

Being verbally abused and threatened by management can also cause depression,

Having pressure from work and home especially on the married ones who have to do shifts,

Lack of professional recognition as Nurses are underrated and underpaid in the health care sector,

Lack of support and prompt response from the nursing body....

Not being appreciated despite all efforts put together for effective patient care



A depressed Nurse:

Will find it difficult to Concentrate,

Does not Communicate appropriately,

Has a problem in Managing time,

Cannot think critically,

Will render poor patient care,

May administer wrong medication to patients putting the patient's life in great danger,

Will have lapses in nursing judgment...

Will tend to commit suicide just like the incidence that recently happened at Prestwich Hospital in Manchester which the Nurse(Leona Goddard) committed suicide due to the workload, long hours and unpredictable shifts....

Depressed Nurses still show up for work, but their performance may be substantially reduced.



We all need a break. No matter how much you love your job; how well you perform; how much of a difference you feel you are making, we all need to take some time, to care for our mental health.

If you are not at 100%, you cannot adequately care for your patients. Self care is equally as important as being compliant with your blood pressure or  medication.

Taking a day or two away from the stresses of your job can be helpful in regaining control of your wellbeing.  

Like batteries, we need to be charged. Our minds and bodies often need boosts of energy.

Go and see a movie at the cinema,

Get that massage you’ve been delaying,

Go for shopping,

Visit that family member or friend whom you’ve missed.

Just as we educate our patients, Nurses need to be proactive. Take a mental health day to visit your physician, therapist, counselor, spiritual leader, etc.

Taking time off to address your mental health needs is instrumental in helping you function at your best.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states, “there is no health without mental health.”  When your mental health begins to affect your physical health, you should definitely use a mental health day to care for yourself.



Depression is unlikely to simply go away on its own. In fact, if ignored and left untreated, depression can go on for months, sometimes years, and can have many negative effects on a person’s life.

Every person needs to find the treatment that’s right for them.

Different types of depression require different treatment.

Mild symptoms may be relieved by:

learning about the condition,

Lifestyle changes such as regular physical exercise,

Psychological therapy provided by a mental health professional.

For moderate to more severe depression, medical treatments are likely to be required, in combination with these other treatments.

Treatment for depression should start with seeing your doctor to discuss your symptoms and treatment options after other symptoms have been ruled. Your doctor may refer you to a psychologist, social worker, counsellor or psychiatrist...


There are Psychological treatments for depression which is also known as talking therapies. This has been found to be an effective way to treat depression. They can help you change your thinking patterns and improve your coping skills so you are better equipped to deal with life's stresses and conflicts.

As well as supporting your recovery, psychological therapies can help you stay well by identifying and changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviour.


There are several different types of psychological treatments which includes:

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT),

Interpersonal therapy (IPT),

Behaviour therapy,

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).

CBT is one of the most commonly used psychological therapy.

The main medical treatment for depression is antidepressant medication. Antidepressant medication may be prescribed, along with psychological treatments, when a person experiences a moderate to severe episode of depression. Sometimes, antidepressants are prescribed when other treatments have not been successful or when psychological treatments are not possible due to the severity of the condition or a lack of access to the treatment.

People with more severe forms of depression like bipolar disorder and psychosis generally need to be treated with medication. This may include one or a combination of mood stabilizers, antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants.



It has been found that depression in the nursing profession is influenced by factors such as the work environment, family, interpersonal conflicts among workers, marital status, stress, lack of professional autonomy, insecurity, age, educational level, night shifts, family income, and work overload.

It is worth mentioning that all the factors directly related to depression may also be indirectly related to the risk of suicide, because depression is considered a predictor of it. It is important to consider health and quality of life of nursing professionals given that their professional practice

occurs in complex realities, with the most diverse human relationships, having to routinely deal with different people, being faced with factors that can produce risk for depression and suicide, which contribute to illness and compromise the delivery of care.

We as Nurses shouldn't just take care of our patient's health and forget our own health as there is no way you can efficiently nurse a patient  when u are emotionally and mentally drained..

When we are free of depression, anxiety, excessive stress, worry, addictions, and other psychological problems, we are more able to live our lives to the fullest.

Peace of mind is a natural condition, and is available to everyone.



I recommend that hospitals or organizations who run on two shifts should review their policy...

Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria(NMCN) and National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives(NANNM) should take prompt action and disciplinary measure on those management who tend to frustrate or bully Nurses at place of work.




"Mental Health Care." Critical Issues in U.S. Health Reformed. E. Ginsberg. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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