Promoting A Nurse Mental Health

Promoting A Nurse Mental Health

An urgent call to shift from crisis intervention to long-term prevention


  • Nurses are experiencing an unprecedented amount of burnout, depression, and anxiety.
  • Stressful work environments, workplace bullying, and workplace cultures unsupportive of personal wellbeing play a role in the nurse's mental health crisis.
  • System-level mental health promotion can reduce the mental health burden on nurses.


A paradigm shift from crisis intervention to mental health promotion and prevention is urgently needed in nursing. For many years, leaders didn’t properly address high rates of healthcare workforce burnout (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, job detachment, and a sense of ineffectiveness) and unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. Instead, burnout was believed to be an individual, not a systemic, issue. Individual nurses were left to figure it out, resulting in a crisis situation. Even the World Health Organization now classifies burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” that must be addressed to maintain mental wellbeing in the workplace.

When burnout occurs, depression, anxiety, risky substance use, physical fatigue, and workplace incivility tend to follow. According to Davidson and colleagues, the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and suicide is now higher in nurses than in the general U.S. population. A national study by Melnyk and colleagues reported that half of 1,790 nurses from 19 healthcare systems indicated poor mental and physical health, and approximately one-third reported depression. Study analysis determined that depression was the leading predictor of self-reported medical errors. In addition to worsening nurse population health outcomes, the mental health crisis also has created costly job turnover rates and increased risks to patient care and safety.

The problem has reached an even higher level of urgency as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate the rate of mental health issues in nurses as they suffer from more burnout, depression, and anxiety, as well as acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. At its most extreme, the lack of system-level preparation to protect nurses against COVID-19 and the resulting secondary mental health effects has resulted in nurse and physician suicide. These outcomes highlight the need to provide interventions for those who are suffering from acute mental health problems and to intensify mental health prevention and promotion efforts. Focusing on prevention at the system level may reduce the number of nurses who reach a state of burnout or experience an acute mental health crisis. 


Appreciate You LLC provides online mental health teletherapy for nurses. Contact us today at if you're suffering from any mental health condition and speak with one of our licensed therapists.

Contributing factors

Nurse burnout and other mental health concerns—such as compassion fatigue (similar to burnout, but more severe as it involves trauma, a decrease in the ability to sympathize, and a change in worldview), depression, anxiety, and risky substance use—are symptoms of a larger issue endemic within the nursing profession. Mental health issues are complex. They arise from genetic predisposition and environmental factors such as stressful work environments, workplace bullying, and workplace cultures that don’t support personal well­being. These environmental factors may prevent nurses from prioritizing their own self-care.

Self-care habits include getting 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, not smoking, limiting alcohol intake to one drink a day, getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day, and regularly practicing a preferred stress reduction technique, such as mindfulness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such practices can help prevent chronic disease and aid in reducing mental health condition symptoms. In addition, those struggling with a mental health issue can benefit from working with a mental health professional.

To find our way out of this crisis, organizations must support employee self-care by providing wellness cultures, addressing system problems, and providing evidence-based interventions to improve nurse mental and physical health. Such interventions include teaching and promoting mindfulness (staying present in the moment and being aware of your feelings and environment), enhancing resiliency (building personal attributes, including forgiveness, gratitude, and compassion), and practicing cognitive-behavioral skills (identifying how a person’s thought patterns impact their emotions and behaviors, and overturning negative with positive thinking).


Six goals and actions to prevent burnout and promote mental health

Stigma and fear of professional consequences continue to be barriers for clinicians seeking help for mental health conditions. According to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio policy brief, this stigma typically begins during school and continues as clinicians begin working in environments without a strong wellness culture. To combat these barriers, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine proposed six goals and system-wide actions to prevent burnout and promote the mental health of clinicians.

  • Create positive work environments.
  • Create positive learning environments.
  • Reduce administrative burden.
  • Enable technology solutions.
  • Provide support to clinicians and learners.
  • Invest in research.


Appreciate You LLC provides online mental health teletherapy for nurses. Contact us today at if you're suffering from any mental health condition and speak with one of our licensed therapists.