Prompted by a post my my friend Craig on "Depression and Nursing," I feel compelled to add a bit to this discussion. I have a severe anxiety disorder and frequent panic attacks, and my coworkers sometimes act like this is bizarre. They're shocked (SHOCKED!) if I mention it. Why? Because nurses aren't supposed to have mental health issues, apparently. We are supposed to be problem free. Well, surprise! Nurses have mental health disorders just like everyone else. According to this study Craig mentions, we may even have disproportionately more. The reasons for this are not the impulse for my post, although that intrigues me as well. I'm posting because I'm tired of the stigma attached to being depressed or anxious. Rough guess: 75% of the nurses I know take medication for some psychiatric disorder (depression and ADHD topping the list, with some anxiety thrown in). If so many of us live with these disorders, why are we so wiggy about it? Is it fear that people will have competency concerns about us? (That is a legitimate fear, unfortunately, which will be mitigated only when we are more transparent about our issues and educate each other and, if necessary, the public about living with treatable psychiatric disorders.) Is it shame over failing to triumph, mind over matter? Is it one of the cases where the people giving me crap about having panic disorder are using a defense mechanism so they don't have to cop to their own issues?
Nurses who say they don't have issues are lying. Everybody has scars, inside or outside. I'm not arguing that it's necessary or possibly even appropriate, depending on the environment, to tell coworkers about them, but mostly, coworkers talk. We talk about our other health conditions, our medications, and our operations just as we chat about our families and everything else. On many units, we see our coworkers MORE than we see our families. They are our family away from home. So I really don't think it's totally bizarre to include these perfectly treatable disorders in casual conversation. Maybe if more nurses did so, we would be able to support each other more. I know I've made a few close friends by copping to my panic disorder---they then, relieved, felt free to disclose their own depression/anxiety/whatever, and it really is a mood-booster to have a word or two of mutual support at work.
I'm just saying. Part of depression is feeling ashamed of the depression, and being stigmatized causes shame, so it forms a vicious circle. I would like nurses to be able to talk to each other about their depression and anxiety because it would break that circle.