As part of the Well-Being Initiative, a suite of resources to support mental health in nurses during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the American Psychiatric Nurses Organization (APNA) has published a guide for nurses seeking mental health services. This guide includes tips for recognizing trauma and emotional distress, places to receive social support, and information about accessing mental health treatment.
To promote resilience in frontline nurses under the extreme stress of the pandemic, the American Nurses Foundation (ANF), American Nurses Association (ANA), American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN), Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) collaborated with APNA on the Well-Being Initiative. In the guide, APNA encourages nurses to self-monitor for symptoms of excessive stress, including sleep disturbances, emotional imbalance, physical changes, difficulty thinking clearly, substance abuse, and changes in social behaviors.
Human resource departments, primary care providers, and online treatment locators can help nurses connect with appropriate mental health services. Treatment from a licensed mental health professional is necessary if and when a nurse begins to experience confused thinking, delusions or hallucinations, prolonged depressive symptoms, feelings of extreme highs and lows, excessive fears, social withdrawal, significant changes in sleeping or eating habits, denial of obvious issues, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts. Mental health treatment may also be necessary if a nurse is unable to cope with daily issues or if symptoms are overwhelming, continue to worsen, or persist for several weeks.
The guide encourages nurses to write down specific topics that they wish to discuss with their mental health provider. These topics may include experiences and feelings that led to scheduling the appointment and the desired outcome of treatment. Questions that address these topics may include “How do you plan to help me?”, “How will I know if we are a good fit?”, “How often will we meet?”, or “What will my treatment look like going forward?”
APNA encourages all nurses, not just those experiencing symptoms, to seek social and peer support during the pandemic. The Happy App, for example, is a nurse-specific platform that gives users round-the-clock access to a support team. In addition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) includes a list of free, confidential support personnel on their website that allow callers to speak with someone who has also experienced a mental health or substance abuse issue.
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, dial 911. You can also contact one of these crisis hotlines for immediate response: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990; or text TalkWithUs to 66746; Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741.
Nurses’ Guide to Mental Health Support Services. American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) website. 2020. Accessed October 20, 2020. https://www.apna.org/files/public/NursesGuidetoSeekingMentalHealthServices_Final.pdf.