What RNs Should Know About Helping Patients Cope with Depression

Treating Depression

Registered Nurses know that statistics for depressed people and attempted suicides in the U.S. is too high: suicide was named as the fourth highest cause of disability and death worldwide in **1990, and is expected to move into second place by 2020. Because many RNs work in the ICU , where it’s estimated that **1 in 3 patients will become depressed, it’s important that all healthcare professionals recognize depressive symptoms, be able to help and direct these patients to useful resources.

RNs may want to broach their concerns directly to the patient if they notice certain behaviors. Nurses should be prepared to open up a dialogue with the patient that gets to the root of what is troubling them, and then work together with hospital staff and the patient’s physician, to make the patient more comfortable.

This list of depressed symptoms was derived from **the Mayo Clinic.

  • The patient seems distracted and tired
  • The patient’s appetite has changed, and he or she is eating less/more; as an RN documenting the patient’s weight, you notice a significant rise or fall on the scale.
  • The patient seems to be craving or avoiding certain foods
  • The patient is sleeping too much/not getting enough sleep.
  • The patient is complaining about a physical discomfort that seems unrelated to what he or she is being hospitalized for.
  • The patient seems nervous and uneasy.
  • The patient is behaving more aggressively toward hospital staff, or, on the flip side presentation of depressed behavior, is behaving in a listless and apathetic manner.

IF Q&A with your patient doesn’t seem to be enough, RNs can try a depression screening. For older patients, there is the Geriatric Depression Scale; for RNs treating patients in labor and delivery, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, and the more generalized Patient Health Questionnaire (PDH-Q) that healthcare professionals can use to assess depression in stroke victims, or use a modified version for adolescents.

For all patient groups, it’s important that the RN feel comfortable educating their patients about more than just managing their illness. RNs are especially invaluable to patients, when they can connect them with resources that help. For example, COPE is geared for teens and funded by the National Institutes of Health; the organization may prove to be an excellent resource for that troubled teen you’re working with at the hospital. COPE helps teens learn how to make healthier lifestyle choices, and exhibit fewer depressive symptoms. If you are an RN involved in the care of pregnant and postpartum women, an invaluable resource can be found on the website: Post Partum Support International.

** Facts about depression, suicide and resources and tool that can help the RN were taken from the Huffington Post’s article by John Draper, as well as these sources: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)The MacArthur Foundation depression screening toolsThe Mayo ClinicAdvisory Board Company