The Importance of Mental Health in Healthcare

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If you work in healthcare you are likely aware of the inherent occupational challenges and stressors associated with providing care to patients. Multiple studies have identified anxiety and depression as long-standing self-reported conditions experienced by healthcare workers.

Add a global pandemic to the mix and it’s no wonder there are growing concerns over mental health in healthcare. Considerations over the mental health of those working in healthcare are not isolated to the United States—the World Health Organization found that at least 25% of healthcare workers report symptoms of anxiety, depression, and burnout, resulting in a global call to action.

Protecting the mental health of healthcare workers has evolved into a critical issue. Supporting methods to reduce job-related stressors and develop appropriate mechanisms to reduce the risk of things like burnout needs to be an occupational priority, and not only because it helps to retain critical staff members! Let’s take a deeper look into why this is so important and some ways to support your own mental health.

What Mental Health Concerns do Healthcare Workers Face and Why?

The stress experienced by those working in the healthcare industry crosses many roles. Physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, and support staff are all susceptible to an industry-driven burden on their mental health. Members of the healthcare workforce are experiencing anxiety, depression, compassion fatigue, and moral injury in alarming numbers. 

Recent data tells us that 82% of healthcare workers surveyed report feeling emotionally or physically exhausted, and 45% of nurses indicate they do not feel they are supported emotionally. Nurses are reported to experience the most severe psychological symptoms. These sobering stats inspire courses like Burnout, Chronic Stress, and Suicidality Among Nurses by Premiere Education that are aimed at equipping nurses in recognizing stress-related risk factors and evidence-based approaches to reducing suicide risk.

Hospitals, medical practices, and long-term care facilities are falling victim to an overburdened healthcare system. An ever-increasing number of patients that need to be managed with what seems like perpetually limited resources create the perfect storm for frontline healthcare workers to exist in what feels like an uphill battle. Staffing shortages, long working hours, supply chain challenges, and the complexity of the medical conditions being managed are just a few of the contributing factors.

The major question is: what do we do to support mental health in healthcare? We can’t easily change the healthcare system, but we can change how we operate within that system.

Take Steps to Prioritize Your Mental Health

Surviving the constant barrage of insults on your mental health is going to be dependent on your ability to establish methods of self-care. Healthcare workers are inherently wired to put the needs of others before their own, but this is clearly not a sustainable mindset.

There needs to be an appreciation for prioritizing your own mental health to remain equipped to properly care for others. You can’t pour from an empty cup. To take care of others, you need to take care of yourself first.

Be Alert for Signs of Burnout

In order to work on fixing this problem you need to be able to recognize the problem in the first place. Picking up on the signs of issues impacting mental health in healthcare such as burnout is a great place to start. Burnout is a sense of overall exhaustion and according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is characterized by:

  • Physical exhaustion
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Cynicism in a role
  • Negativity
  • A sense of reduced efficacy 
  • Avoiding work

Deploy Coping Techniques

Coping strategies aimed at protecting one’s mental health do not always come naturally. It takes some work to plan for and prioritize methods to support our mental well-being. Coping strategies need to be intentional.

Coping techniques take effort but are a meaningful way to prioritize self-care and invest in your own mental well-being. Coping techniques both on and off the clock can include:

  • Taking breaks
  • Set boundaries in your professional role
  • Prioritize sleeping well to remain well rested
  • Make sure you’re eating well in and out of work
  • Consider training programs on mindfulness

To learn more about strategies supportive of mental health and self-care, it’s helpful to explore courses like Self-Care and Mental Health by Premiere Education. This free introductory course will define self-care, describe strategies to support mental health, and provide valuable insight into when to reach out for help.

Be Supportive

If there is one major takeaway from the statistics on the prevalence of issues impacting mental health in healthcare it’s that you’re not alone. There is a unique camaraderie among healthcare workers in that the struggles are mutually understood and appreciated. 

While struggling, feelings of isolation can make the situation unbearable. Peer-to-peer support in times of need can make all the difference. This support can come in many forms, some of which may seem simple but have a great impact.

  • Send a quick note of acknowledgment on a job well done
  • Volunteer to cover someone for a break
  • Mentor younger colleagues
  • Consider giving someone a ride home after an exhausting shift
  • Support a sense of teamwork

Make Time for Yourself

If your professional role is the primary source of stress, you need to appreciate the importance of time spent away from that role. Your job is just one aspect of your life, there is a lot of living to be done outside of that job.

Making time for yourself to engage in the activities that you enjoy will support a healthy work-life balance hopefully reducing stress and anxiety. Spending time with family or friends, participating in hobbies, and finding something that will give you a sense of accomplishment can help keep you stimulated and engaged with something positive. The healthcare experts at Premiere Education take the welfare of healthcare professionals seriously, which is why we’re committed to designing helpful courses that improve mental health and wellbeing. 

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