Posted by: ayrshirehealth | August 6, 2014

Make a difference .. be nice to your colleagues by @RASIN_Ayrshire

What’s the difference between depression and chronic stress?

Those who know me will be relieved to learn that this is not the opening to a joke, but rather a genuine question I put to an academic psychiatrist recently.Depression

“Is there a difference?” was his response, consistent with my musings.

As a general psychiatrist, a significant part of my work is caring for those who are depressed. Many have had, and continue to have, difficult experiences in life. Ameliorating their symptoms and/or helping them cope via medication, psychology and support can really help, but stops short of dealing with the underlying issues.

Those who have understandable reasons for feeling depressed can often just as accurately be described as stressed and distressed. Stress is the physiological state experienced when we perceive that the demands upon us exceed our capacity to cope. Distress can be thought of as the negative subjective psychological consequences of being stressed. And too much stress and distress for too long leads to a depressed state.

Major health concern

The World Health Organisation views depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide, and a major contributor to the global burden of disease, describing it as a major public health concern. StressIt is estimated that 350 million people worldwide are currently living with depression.

As with most conditions, prevention is as desirable as cure. So, anything we can do to make a difference is welcome. And perhaps relieving stress should be as important as treating depression. Indeed, sometimes it may be the same thing. But how? As Hans Selye, the father of stress research, once observed, “Stress ceases only at the moment of death”.

Stress is contagious 

I frequently hear colleagues ask one another if they would return to work after winning the lottery. Many of us claim that we would, were it not for the stress of working in the NHS. I suspect that most of us enjoy the core aspects of our jobs (one assumes that is why we chose them), but become burdened, jaded and disillusioned over time by the “nonsense” (insert your own examples here) and pressure. But could it be that a significant proportion of NHS stress is internally generated by us, and not just externally imposed?

Being stressed ourselves tends to lead to stress for others. When we’re irritable, impatient, frustrated, unhappy, and generally negative, it’s hard for our colleagues to remain unaffected. Stress is therefore contagious.

screen-capture-50It is both understandable yet inexcusable that we are anything other than kind, patient, considerate, courteous, and (yes, I dare to use the word) nice to one another as colleagues.

Yet I doubt that I am alone in having witnessed, experienced and expressed various manifestations of stress in the workplace.

Thoughtfulness and kindness are also contagious

But mercifully the opposite is also true. Courtesy, patience, thoughtfulness, kindness, and general agreeableness are just as infectious, and cost nothing (except a little effort). I wonder how much stress, distress, and associated depression could be avoided just through us being nice to one another?

So, just as my mentors emphasised their received wisdom, “Always be nice to patients”, why not “Always be nice to colleagues”, too? What a difference this would make.

This week’s blog was by @RASIN_Ayrshire (Dr T Everett Julyan), Consultant Psychiatrist, NHS Ayrshire & Arran; Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow.


  1. Always refreshing to hear someone talk about being nice and taking care of each other (as colleagues).
    I wrote in my blog about the idea of being person centered doesnt just mean the patients.
    If you cant be kind to one another then how on earth can you do the job that is at its heart is about care.
    Enjoyed this very much!

  2. Not to be underestimated. A lovely reminder Everett, good to hear from you

  3. Enjoyed your blog.
    I would agree entirely with your simple but powerful message and would add that we need to give each other positive feedback more often.

  4. I agree that it’s refreshing to hear someone talk about being nice to each other, it costs nothing to hand out but has such a huge positive impact and rewarding outcomes. Being nice, respectful, responsive and caring can quickly negate a potential conflict from developing and thus reduce stress to all concerned. And yes being nice is infectious so lets spread that around as opposed to negativity.

  5. I found this a really insightful and positive post. We all want to be that courteous and kind person and hopefully our changing culture is taking us closer to that. Or, if we’re not there yet, we’re hopefully becoming much more aware of the impact of our behaviours, as Everett has described. Great post.

  6. I also agree with the comments of the previous people. If we are enthuisiastic about the work and subjects we work with day in and day out then yes this will rub off on people. Stress in my eyes is part and parcel of working life. I have yet to be in a position of employment that doesnt place some levels of stress apon me.
    In my mind thyere can be no doubt that the NHS is asking for us to work longer and harder at times and this can increase stress levels, but for me this is a challenge. I have worked in a number of different proffessions and none of these proffessions have given me the levels of suport to progress my career, the support i need if life becomes to hard outside my working life, the support to help me to look after my health better, no other orginization offers this that i know of
    So in return for this i say stress……Well if god gez me lemons then am goni make the best lemonade yev ever tasted

  7. Well said Dr Julyan something we should all strive to do – it would make NHS Ayrshire and Arran a nicer place to work and the world a happier place

  8. I really enjoyed reading this blog. Common sense advice about action that the reader can take to make a real improvement to a person’s wellbeing …. action that costs nothing… and has such a positive impact … go on, give it a go!!! Just be nice!

  9. what a lovely reminder of how simple things have the potential to make a big difference; as our grannies used to say ” courtesy costs nothing”. Be nice to others and you may just find that more people will be nice to you!

  10. Well said Everett. If we are happy in our workplace then that rubs off onto our colleagues and patients.

  11. Really enjoyed this Everett, thank you. I think the importance of being nice to colleagues is hugely underrated. We all spend a lot of time at work so the environment we are in is so important. Having caring, respectful, supportive relationships with colleagues makes the job (which may well be stressful at times) less stressful and more rewarding I’d say.
    I’ve just undertaken training to be a Caring Behaviours Assurance System (CBAS) trainer and have recently worked with staff in 3 stations at University Hospital, Ayr. The programme is all about ‘caring for self, caring for others’ and is based on the principle that if we don’t care for our colleagues and for ourselves, how can we effectively care for patients? Now I’m not saying that staff should necessarily have to undertake training to be nice to their colleagues…..but I think anything which helps us to make improvements to patient care and affords some people the time to reflect on their behaviours and others…..can only be good.
    I’ve pasted a link to a brief overview of CBAS on the Knowledge Network for your information. Thanks again Everett.

  12. I whole heartedly agree with everything said as a result of this very important and honest post (well done). Why did we want to come into a service which aims to care and heal? The healing process is much wider than the right medication or correct and successful hospital procedures. Leadership can come from the top, love, caring and compassion comes from within and like a smile – infectious. Let this be one that infection control will be happy to spread to all, patients, families, colleagues and friends.

  13. Saw a picture of a sign outside a coffee shop online yesterday:

    “Coffee” $5
    “Coffee please” $4
    “Good morning, a coffee please” $2.40

    Real evidence that being friendly doesn’t cost and that in fact it might actually save you something!

  14. I have certain colleagues that i know just brighten up my day as they just have a happy persona. I always feel better just chatting to them or hearing them enter a room with a big friendly hello everyone, even if i am facing my computer when i hear them i start to smile. So yes being nice is contagious and i hope i do the same to others. 🙂

  15. Everett, I enjoyed ready your blog and think that the concept of being kind to our colleagues (all of them) as opposed to being difficult or neutral, is actually a real challenge for many of us.

    I think we all need to reflect on how many times we pass people in corridors, are too busy to take time to check (and I mean really check) how our colleagues are and the impact of that behavior on others.

    Work is good for our health- however had an interesting discussion with community mental health colleagues on our attitude to colleagues who are not well enough to be at work.

    Keep challenging us until we exude health and well being!
    Best wishes

  16. A nice thought for the day!

  17. What a lovely distraction a smile can be from a mind full of stuff and concern… lovely remoinder.. thank Everett.

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