Learn the common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents.
Learn more about common mental health conditions that affect millions.
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Health care is a demanding, stressful field. From adjusting to unusual hours and extra shifts, to the trauma of losing patients — your job is not easy. Health care professionals are highly trained and accustomed to solving problems, healing others and managing pressure. Yet no one is immune to the long-term effects of stress and trauma.
Some of the difficult cases you manage can stay with you, while others don’t, and this can sometimes seem illogical. You may also feel anger as a result of the senseless trauma that seems to be occurring with greater frequency. This can make it more difficult to respond to patients with empathy. These are indicators of moral injury, and the conflicting emotions can create added struggle.
You may question why you’re not always bothered by a patient outcome, or whether you’re experiencing a normal reaction to patient cases you respond to. It may help to know that trauma can create a variety of responses. Feelings of distress can be expressed in trouble sleeping, nightmares, feeling irritable, wanting to be alone, sudden emotions or even physical pain or symptoms.
There are ways to effectively cope with the experiences you face and the emotional responses that health care professionals often feel as a result. You already know that it’s important to take care of yourself physically, and in order to serve safely and effectively, it’s just as important to take care of your mental health.
Below you will find information and a range of resources created especially for frontline health care professionals. You’ll also find actionable tips on building resiliency and well-being, and ways for families to get involved.
Caring for others requires that you also care for yourself.
Sometimes it’s easy to recognize the signs that you need to talk to someone about how you’re doing. But it can also become routine to ignore the effects of stress and trauma as you continuously care for patients, fill extra shifts and manage all the usual stressors day after day.
It’s essential to practice self-care and check in with yourself regularly. Be aware of how you’re feeling, especially after difficult shifts. Don’t let symptoms of trauma or stress reach a dangerous level.
Feeling irritable or angry. You have a lack of patience for things that never used to bother you. You feel irritated or even angry a lot more often than usual.
Feeling anxious, depressed, lonely or constantly sad. You feel happy much less frequently. The bad days seem to far outweigh the good days.
Reliving traumatic events. You want nothing more than to forget the distressing things you’ve experienced, or the losses and suffering you’ve seen, but those memories keep reappearing, often unexpectedly.
Isolating yourself and lack of trust in others. You feel alone, yet you also prefer to be alone. You don’t want to talk or socialize, or maybe you’ve lost interest in activities you used to enjoy. You may question whether anyone cares, including your leadership at work or even people who are close to you.
Experiencing compassion fatigue, burnout or moral injury. You find it difficult to empathize with others and are bothered by decisions and situations that feel wrong. The cost of caring feels like it’s stretched you thin, making it feel like a struggle just to get through each shift.
Struggling to sleep or oversleeping. You have trouble sleeping due to shiftwork and a lack of recovery time. You never seem to feel rested. Or you feel like sleeping far more than usual.
New or increased substance use. You, and perhaps others, have noticed an increase in how much you’re drinking or using other substances.
Cumulative stress and trauma can create a range of emotions and responses, and it may seem overwhelming at times. These feelings and experiences are normal, but they can take a significant toll on your mental and physical well-being. It doesn’t mean that you are destined to have a long-term mental health condition because you’re experiencing any of these signs, but addressing them is vital to ensuring lifelong health and wellness.
In addition to the peer support resources and confidential professional support resources you can find on this site, you can also call the NAMI HelpLine – a free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resource referrals and support to people living with a mental health condition, their family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public. The NAMI HelpLine is available Monday through Friday between 10 am and 10 pm ET at 800-950-6264.
Remember: If you are in crisis, there are resources you can turn to.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline offers free, confidential crisis counseling 24/7/365 — and you don’t have to be in crisis to call or text.
The Crisis Text Line also offers free 24/7 mental health support. Text “SCRUBS” to 741741 for help.
A trained peer — someone who also wears scrubs and knows exactly what you’re going through — can be an invaluable resource. They understand the daily challenges and frustrations of the profession and are able to lend support in tough times. Peer support offers you a shared perspective with a skilled response.
You are not alone; your peers are ready to stand with you.
Sometimes it helps just having a peer to listen. Other times, having professional mental health support is essential
You can access these services without concern for your career, and they are staffed with culturally-competent professionals – people who understand your line of work.
As a frontline health care professional, you are already accustomed to stress. While every patient case or emergency response may not noticeably affect you, daily stress can accumulate.
Resiliency reduces the harmful effects of stress and trauma, acting as a buffer to help you maintain your well-being.
As a health care professional, you already know the importance of good nutrition, exercise and doing your best to get quality sleep. These factors become more challenging when facing the negative impacts of shiftwork, which include a higher risk of obesity, substance abuse disorder, cardiovascular and metabolic disease — all of which affect mental health.
Being a family member of a health care professional can be exceptionally challenging. You worry about their health and well-being, as well as how their challenging career impacts your family.
Having information to use and share with others is important. Resources can be useful in different ways for everyone, so we encourage each individual to explore options and build a resource toolkit of your own.
In a crisis? Call or text 988.