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Mental Health Case Study

“I am a well educated, highly credentialed registered nurse with 22 years experience. I have worked in an incredibly busy ICU at a large, metropolitan teaching hospital for the last 12 years. I’m highly respected and valued by my nursing and medical colleagues. I have no ambition to climb the ladder but I have been happy to act in the role of Unit Manager over the years.

Not much upsets or unsettles me. I consider myself to be a strong and stoic person. I think this is balanced with empathy and understanding for those I work with and care for in my job.

Three months ago I experienced an event at work that has changed me forever. The shift had started like any other. Before long I was required to assist with an emergency in the next bed. I responded as usual, providing support, taking direction where necessary and assisting my colleagues to revive the patient. Unfortunately the patient didn’t survive.

As a result I was subjected to a verbal tirade by my colleague who was caring for this patient. She was aggressive, abusive and scathing with her language. She denigrated me, made me feel hopeless and worthless. I froze. I was paralysed by fear. My heart felt as if it was going to jump out of my chest. I was sweating and couldn’t get my thoughts in order. I eventually ran to the change room, locked myself in the toilet and dissolved into tears.

This incident filled me with terror, panic and fear. My reaction scared me. It was so out of character for me to lose control like that. I was always the one who was in control, the person who could manage under pressure and keep the appearance of being in control (even if on the inside I was anxious and nervous). I was convinced I was losing my mind and I’d condemned myself to never working again.

Fortunately, I felt OK with approaching my NUM to talk about this and he suggested I contact the NMHP for help. Reluctantly, I called them the following day. I could tell from the moment I spoke with a nurse there that I was going to be OK! The empathy, support and understanding I was given from that first conversation until now has been incredible. Life-saving in fact! I really felt that I was losing my grip on reality and my case manager at the NMHP helped me understand what was happening to me.

Just telling my story to someone else was such a relief. Having access to someone who would listen to me, not judge me and not tell me what to do was so reassuring. I realised that the event at work had probably been building for months and I wasn’t ‘Superwoman’. I have limits to what I can do and how much I can take on, just like everyone else.

The NMHP has helped me understand how I found myself in that mess at work and assisted me to identify practical solutions to overcome the challenges I face. Not just at work but in my life.

The simplest and best message I got was to be kind to myself. I’d never really planned my annual leave and certainly never organised anything nice for me when I took it. Since then I’ve taken leave and done nice things for ME. I now realise the value of good health. I’ve seen the other side and don’t ever want to experience that again.

Thanks to the NMHP I have a whole new view of my health and life. Their support has saved my career, my relationships and most importantly my health. I can’t recommend the NMHP highly enough.”