3 Ways to Address Mental Health in the Healthcare Workplace
Mental health is not the easiest conversation to have in the workplace. In fact, 61 percent of employees feel there’s a social stigma in the workplace toward colleagues with mental health issues, according to a report from Unum, a provider of employee benefits.
In healthcare, studies continue to reveal that physicians and nurses are among the most stressed and burned out professionals in the nation. This is often a result of long hours, a lack of resources, and a heavy workload—and asking for help is not always easy. Doctors, in particular, fear that disclosing any problems related to mental illness will jeopardize their confidentiality, leaving them vulnerable to gossip among their peers, subject to sanctions, or even worse, losing their job. Not only can this have a lasting, detrimental impact on mental health, but it can also lead to high turnover, poor care, patient dissatisfaction, malpractice lawsuits, and more. This costs the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $4.6 billion annually.
While addressing mental health issues can be challenging, employers and HR leaders are in a prime position to shift attitudes and provide support in a meaningful way. Here are three ways you can promote mental health education and awareness across all levels of your healthcare organization.
1. Provide Training and Resources
Raising mental health awareness through training is crucial to identifying and addressing issues in the workplace. However, according to recent statistics, only 25 percent of managers in the U.S. have been trained on responding to employees who have mental health issues; and more than half are unsure how they’d help a colleague who came to them with a mental health problem. Today, experts suggest implementing online training courses to help managers and employees recognize signs of stress or mental illness in themselves as well as in others. Taking proactive steps to provide relevant education and resources allow employees to address issues before they escalate and potentially impact others.
2. Create a Healthy Workplace
Fostering a productive and engaging workplace means promoting a healthy work-life balance. This often includes flexible schedules, paid time off vacations, and team wellness challenges, just to name a few. Flexible schedules enable employees to balance their personal life with their professional responsibilities; paid time off gives employees the opportunity to alleviate everyday stressors and recharge the body as well as the mind; and group fitness challenges encourage a healthy lifestyle while also building team engagement and trust.
3. Encourage Mindfulness Practices
Experts agree that mindfulness practices can help regulate emotions and alter the way the mind responds to stress. From ailing patients to their distressed family members, healthcare employees spend most of their days in high-stress, high-emotion environments—not to mention the life they must attend to at home afterward. Employers should encourage physicians and nurses to take a few minutes in between their breaks to meditate and perform breathing exercises to help recalibrate the mind. Meditation increases your ability to focus while also quieting the voices in our heads; deep breathing exercises help release stressors from your mind through your breath. It can be a challenging exercise for keeping the mind quiet because thoughts about work, home, family and friends tend to surface. The key is not trying to block the thoughts from entering your mind but letting them pass when they enter.
Like most strategies, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to developing a productive and engaging workplace. “Companies who invest in the mental health of their people and foster open dialogue about mental health issues will also be creating a positive workplace and a place where people want to work,” says Alan Kohll, Founder and President of TotalWellness, a national corporate health and wellness services provider.
Will your organization be part of the 57 percent planning to increase their focus and resources toward mental and behavioral health over the next three years? Please share. We’d love to hear from you.