Take your mental health off the backburner

Mark Aitken
Welcome to the Winter 2022 edition of the Nurse & Midwife Support newsletter.

Our mission in 2022 is to urge you to look after your health and wellbeing. This edition of our newsletter is devoted entirely to supporting your mental health — and the mental health of everybody in our workforce.

Young nurse wearing scrubs

Know what mental health means

According to the World Health Organisation, mental health is:

“A state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to her or his community.”

Remind yourself why your mental health matters

As good as nurses, midwives, and students are at looking after others, we can place our own health on the backburner. It’s time to change that. 

Your mental health matters. It supports you to live your best life — and to be the best clinician. Our codes of conduct require that we maintain our physical and mental health to practise safely and effectively. 

Be aware of the factors that may risk your mental health

Working during the pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of many. You may have experienced exhaustion, burnout, moral distress, anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

If you’ve been struggling we want you to know that support is only a phone call away. We’re here on 1800 667 877 — free, confidential, 24/7. 

We know that if mental health conditions are not managed adequately, quality of life may be significantly diminished. Small issues can also deteriorate quickly into big issues without attention. 

The article The psychiatric impact of COVID-19 on healthcare workers in The Australian Journal of General Practice Volume 49, Issue 12, December 2020 confirmed that mental health care workers are vulnerable to developing trauma or stress-related disorders in addition to other mental health conditions during large-scale disease outbreaks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. If not adequately managed the long-term consequences may include chronic psychological conditions. 

The article also highlights that in comparison to the general population, healthcare workers are at higher risk of mental illness including a greater risk of suicide, suicidal ideation, and self-harm behaviours. The article is a sober reminder that our work can make us vulnerable to mental health issues. Awareness of the risk factors for mental health impairment, the protective factors for our mental health and the availability of support are vital.

The authors offer this advice to managers and those caring for the mental health of nurses and midwives:

“Opportunistic screening for mental health issues among Health Care Workers (HCWs) is especially important during the current pandemic. Various tools and strategies can be used for efficient assessment and treatment of the common mental health issues HCWs are likely to face.”

If you are concerned about your mental health, make an appointment with your GP and request a mental health assessment. You may be eligible for a mental health plan and subsided appointments with a psychologist. 

You can also chat to us about your mental health concerns. Contact Nurse & Midwife Support on 1800 667 877 24/7. We can chat about what you’re going through, offer strategies for change, or just listen if you need to vent. 

Understand the complexities of mental illness

Almost half of us will suffer from a mental illness at some point in our lives. Chances are you or somebody in your life has or will experience a mental illness. 

Mental illness is complex and often comes with stigma and shame. Nurses and midwives with mental illness often worry that they will be undermined as professionals and won’t get the support they need to continue working. As a cohort, we can all work to make our industry a safe place to speak up and make sure our friends, colleagues (and selves!) can get the support we need. 

Author Sarah Krasnostein explores our complex relationship with mental illness in the recent issue of Quarterly Essay: Not Waving, Drowning: Mental illness and vulnerability in Australia. She outlines Australia’s chequered history with mental illness and its management and provides an overview of the complexities of mental illness. Sarah examines the detrimental impact of stigma perpetrated on those with mental illness and how isolating living with mental illness can be a reason why many don’t seek support until their illness is advanced. The issue is a useful overview for anybody who wants to understand the current state of mental health in Australia. 

Living well with mental illness

Acknowledging that you may be mentally unwell may make you feel vulnerable and afraid.

Sarah Russell is a former nurse who uses her lived experience to advocate for those living with mental illness. She often reminds us that you can live well with a mental illness and why it’s vital you access support, assessment, and treatment. In 2019 she joined us on the podcast to discuss how she lives well with bipolar disorder. Listen to the episode or check out the blogs she has written for us: 

Discover the benefits of psychological first aid

If you want your organisation to be a leader in supporting the mental health of nurses and midwives, consider implementing psychological first aid training as mandatory education.

The team at Nurse & Midwife Support are all trained in psychological first aid. It helps us to better understand mental illness and support your mental health. It also helps us to recognise when our work is impacting our mental health.

The World Health Organisation recommends the timely provision of psychological first aid for health care workers in need of support.

Psychological first aid is used to help people affected by an emergency, disaster, or traumatic event. It uses support to promote natural recovery by helping people to feel safe and connected to others, calm and hopeful. It gives them access to physical, emotional, and social support, and helps them feel able to help themselves.

In this newsletter a diverse group of nurses and midwives share their wisdom, experience, and passion for supporting the mental health of their colleagues promoting the theme-your mental health matters.

In this issue

Discover resources, tips, strategies to support your mental health

“The way I see it, self-care is about the tasks and strategies we use to avoid burnout. Self-compassion is more … making sure that we are as kind and nurturing to ourselves as we’re expected to be to our patients.”

Paul McNamara, credentialed mental health nurse and blogger with the Meta4RN website shares how self-compassion can support you to thrive in emotionally taxing work environments. In this issue, he has generously shared a presentation he offers on the topic of Self-compassion. Check it out!  

Discover how managers can support the mental health of their staff

Leaders must support employee mental health. So says experienced mental health nurse and leader, Nino Di Pasquale. 

“… the mental health of healthcare workers is a shared responsibility…work to give it the priority status it deserves.”

Read Nino’s important call to action: Managers of nurses and midwives — you can support your employee’s mental health. 

Befriend your vulnerability    

“Caring is a revolutionary act and befriending our own vulnerability by caring for ourselves is the vital first step.”

Mental health nurse and therapist, Claire Hudson McAuley, reflects on what could be the first step to securing your mental health in her article Befriending Vulnerability: Chase away ‘the blahs’.

Self-care tips shared by an early career nurse

“When I’m healthy I can be a better Mum, partner, and nurse. I’m an early career mental health nurse and I have learnt that taking care of my mental health and well-being is vitally important.”

Early career mental health nurse, Kat Evans, shares self-care tips that have supported her mental health in her article My Health Matters: How I made it my mantra.

New podcast episode: Supporting the mental health of nurses and midwives 

Kat Evans is also a guest on the Your Health Matters podcast. She joins registered midwife Georgie Southam and our first special guest co-host Tessa Moriarty to discuss how we can support the mental health of nurses and midwives. Listen to the podcast.

Know the importance of checking in

Regularly check in with yourself and each other by asking these simple questions:

Am I OK?


There's more to say after R U OK?

If you are not OK reach out for support. We know that the mental health system is strapped right now, and people in some areas may be finding it difficult to find vacancies with psychologists, GPs, and other mental health services. Thankfully, we’re here no matter what. You don’t need an appointment! Give us a call on 1800 667 877 or email us — free, confidential, 24/7. 

This edition would not have been possible without the generosity of our contributors or credentialed mental health nurse Tessa Moriarty, who helped us craft the issue. Thank you so much for your time, expertise, energy, and honesty. 

Your mental health really does matter!

Mark Aitken RN
Stakeholder Engagement Manager