People are afraid to deal with mental issues because they aren't an easy fix, and out of fear, but also from denial. "That is not me, that is not my family, that is dangerous, etc." Then they get upset when it affects them or someone they love and people still have the same responses they once did. People don't change easily.
I come from a large family full of mental issues. We have alcoholics, one known suicide, many attempted suicides, at least two schizophrenics, at least two autistics, a whole bunch of drug addicts and some that just haven't been classified but surely need to be. My current adaptive measure is to take care of my daughter, who is autistic, and to ignore the rest of them, because one is about all I have the patience for, realistically. And that includes my nutcase of a mother.
I would like to be understanding. Right now, I am supportive of disabilities that include the autism spectrum and mental retardation, and it's lovely to help folks "be all they can be" and see them start to develop a sense of purpose in life. I am regularly in contact with folks who have all the other issues, as they don't have good support systems and self medicate, and wind up in my ICU with problems that ultimately, hark back to mental illness and their inability to deal with it. All I can do is adapt in how I respond to them, attempt to suspend judgement and try for the barest of behavioral contracts with them: I'll be nice if you be nice, and this is what the rules say, etc.
I will say that I see parallel, but not the same, types of reactions with regard to other chronic, currently incurable conditions and having been smacked in the last year with RA, I can see why nurses don't routinely share their struggles with other nurses. My patients are more understanding of my issues than my coworkers. I don't talk to all of them, but when I start to preach biofeedback, I reference that I have a reason to be concerned about how I personally take pain meds, and this is how I manage and stay away from a narcotic dependency, at least for this year. Most patients love to see a nurse working who is human, who overcomes adversity to help others. It's inspiring.
Only once have I heard of a nurse discussing their own mental struggles with a patient, and it's because that coworker shared with me the gist of their conversation after the patient was, later, successful in her quest to leave this life. I don't think that nurse has really processed how to feel about it, and may come back to it time and time again, but that's just my guess. That is where the parallel breaks down; those with MI feel that maybe no one, patient or coworker and likely not even family, will understand the issues. I certainly don't; the closest I've come is a reaction to prednisone and I knew at the time that the effect would be temporary, although it was really interesting. I'm at risk for any of the things that my family has in their history, maybe not schizophrenia or autism since I'm middle-aged and would have been diagnosed or dysfunctional before now, but certainly addiction, depression, those are still things that could come around and visit.
I don't know why I can't understand, except maybe that it requires personal experience to do so. All I can do is try to accept. Those that deal with these things personally, know that I am thankful for your honesty, and I wish the gap could be bridged more successfully.