Taking care of others is at the heart of every mental health nurse’s responsibilities, but many don’t make time to take care of their own mental health.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, we spoke to one of our mental health clinical specialists Vicki, to find out how she takes care of her mental health.
What do you find most challenging about being a mental health nurse?
Balancing the pressures and demands from my employer and the patient / their family is difficult but you do get used to it. One of the most challenging things for me is leaving work every day. Once I got home I would often find myself worrying about people I’d looked after that day – it’s a hard job to switch off from.
Could you tell us about a time where you struggled with your own mental health?
The unit I completed my preceptorship in was a very volatile and a difficult unit to work in. Unfortunately when I was approx. 1.5 years into the job, I was very badly injured in an aggressive incident that had led to a very long and difficult restraint. I was very young and felt isolated and concerned about my future as a nurse. I attended counselling through a company recommended by occupational health and they encouraged me to ‘think outside the box’. As a result, I chose to train in therapeutic interventions which has enabled me to transfer my skills to the community.
How do you take care of your own mental health?
I have three children under five years of age, so as much as I would love to say I engage in regular spa days I’d be lying! The closest I get to a spa day is a visit to my bath, complete with candles, loads of bubbles, usually a G&T and whatever series I’m watching on Netflix! I also find exercise is excellent for dispelling any ‘nervous’ energy that builds up during the day. I attend a mini trampoline class some evenings to literally bounce my worries away!
What advice would you give to employers on how to support their mental health nurses to take care of their own mental health?
Listen to your nurses. Sounds simple but being available and visible shows them that you see the pressures that they are experiencing first hand and instantly makes you more approachable.
What advice would you give to a fellow mental health nurse if they are struggling with their own mental health?
Speak to someone. This job is not easy and you experience a lot of transference from service users and their families on a daily basis. Use the support networks that are available, most workplaces have a mental health first aider or if you don’t feel comfortable with that, there are lots of helplines you can ring like the Cavell Nurses’ Trust. If you feel that you are significantly struggling, see your GP or present to A&E to be assessed. The most important thing to remember is you can’t pour from an empty cup.
If you or a colleague is struggling with their mental health, please call the Cavell Nurses’ Trust on 01527 595 999.