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Why we should prioritise the mental health of nurses

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Author: Leila Reyburn Author: Leila Reyburn

This year’s World Mental Health Day is bigger than ever, with more and more voices chiming in with all the right messages about the need to raise awareness, look after our own mental health and improve services and support. Amid all the positive noise, it’s important to honestly reflect on where we are up to and how far we have yet to go.

The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is workplace mental health – because our working environment can have such a dramatic impact on our mental health and because often people don’t feel they can be open with their employer for fear of the consequences. This is particularly true of health professionals. Mind’s own research shows that almost nine out of ten primary care staff including practice nurses find work-life stressful, which in many cases leads to people leaving or considering leaving their jobs. Worryingly, a third of those people feel that admitting to being too stressed at work would lead them to being perceived as less capable than other colleagues, evidence that stigma is still rife even in a sector that should arguably have a better understanding of mental health than others.

Frequently cited causes of stress include long working hours and excessive workload, both of which are commonplace among nursing staff. That’s why it’s so important that employers put in place measures to tackle the causes of stress and poor mental health at work, promote wellbeing for all staff, and support members of staff experiencing a mental health problem.

Nurses play a vital part in supporting those of us with mental health problems. We know that a good relationship with a nurse can make all the difference to someone’s experiences of services. Nursing staff do a hugely challenging job, in extremely difficult circumstances, and after decades of neglect and underfunding, mental health services are stretched at a time of rising demand. This isn’t good for people accessing or trying to access services – and it isn’t good for nurses either.

The success of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health depends heavily on the capacity and quality of the NHS workforce. Nursing staff need the right support in order to be able to carry out their roles to the high standard their patients need. If we are to see improvements to mental health services then we need to first look inwards and make sure the mental health of those delivering care is made a priority.

About Mind:

  • We’re Mind, the mental health charity. We provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. We won't give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect.
  • Please note that Mind is not an acronym and should be set in title case.
  • Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am - 6pm, Monday – Friday)
  • Contact Mind’s Media Team for interviews or further information on 0208 522 1743. For out of hours support, call 07850 788 514 or email
  • To access to a range of free images to accompany mental health news stories, visit: These images have been developed by Time to Change, a campaign to change how we all think and act about mental health problems. Time to Change is led by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund.

*Mental health and wellbeing survey: A snapshot of practice nurses’ views regarding responsibility and training (2014). Authored by Dr Sheila Hardy

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