Career Lifestyle

Behind the NHS Uniform – The Untold Truths of Workplace Stress

The smiling face of the NHS worker can often hide the turmoils taking place within that person. 

It’s important to recognise how the amazing people who fix us undergo varying degrees of workplace stress throughout their day.

 So let’s take a moment to take on board and understand one person’s view of workplace stress who works in the NHS.

“As pressures continue to mount on public sector workers the cracks are beginning to show. Behind the mask of composure some of us are struggling.

It’s not just the NHS; more and more organisations are forced to manage increasing demands with limited resources. Our service users are not the only ones to suffer; we often overlook the impact this has on ourselves. A stressful working environment is often coupled with difficult home circumstances; financial pressures, family worries.

Time slips away and we are not given the opportunity to reflect. Employers and teams often lack insight into the human cost that workplace stress can have.

Over recent months I look to my colleagues and recognise the symptoms of mental illness as they struggle to manage their work and home stresses. Desperate to reach out to them, it is hard to protect the people around us when they themselves are blind to deteriorating mental health.

The ‘it wouldn’t happen to me’ attitude does nothing more than lull people into a false sense of security. No one is immune to mental illness. I see the most senior of colleagues disappear beneath a mountain of work. Trying to support the people around us can be draining.

I once read that you don’t realise that you are drowning when you are trying to be somebody’s anchor. Striking the right balance between helping others without it impacting our own health is difficult, but not impossible. It all starts with talking and raising awareness both in the workplace and at home. We need a society that says yes to mental health, only then can we eliminate the stigma that prevents people from stepping forward to get the help they deserve.

I am by no means perfect. But with mental illness, comes knowledge.  Sometimes we are so busy running that we fail to feel the ground slipping away from under our feet. I know something is wrong when I am in control of everything but myself. But there is no shame in falling down; the shame is in lying down. Relapse is always a risk, but I don’t want to survive, I want to live. So I push forward and use my experiences to help the people around me.

Mental health services in the NHS continue to be the poor relations, receiving less than their fair share of resources. Receiving professional treatment can be part of the solution but we also have a duty to ourselves to take a proactive approach to maintain both our physical and mental health. It is easy to brush aside the simple steps we can take to build resilience; they can seem woolly or indulgent. Quite often we are unable to control external stressors, but we can be proactive in building our strength to manage these.

It’s ok not to be ok, and it’s important to recognise this.  Only by building a better sense of self-awareness can we grow in strength and with strength we will be better positioned to help ourselves and the people we care about. “


The author of this piece works within the NHS and has asked to remain anonymous.

Remember if you are struggling, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, reach out and talk. You are not alone and certainly will not be the only one feeling the way you do. You can even read more about dealing with stress in the NHS and find great resources to help.


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