All too often, mental health issues among healthcare professionals are overlooked. Because health professionals are qualified to work in healthcare, it’s assumed that they should also be well-equipped to care for their own mental health. But that isn’t always the case.
Healthcare professionals are no less susceptible to mental health issues than anyone else. In fact, working in the healthcare field can sometimes make them particularly susceptible to things like depression, stress, and burnout. For these workers to continue providing quality care to their patients, intentional care for their mental health must be prioritized.
Read on to learn more about common mental health issues among healthcare professionals and how to prioritize mental health care in the medical workplace.
Mental Health Issues Among Healthcare Professionals
While each person’s mental health is as unique as their physical health, certain mental health issues are especially likely to affect healthcare workers specifically.
In 2021, research pooled from 65 studies in 21 countries showed a high prevalence of depression (21.7%), anxiety (22.1%), and PTSD (21.5%) among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. While these issues likely did not originate solely from the pandemic, they do appear to have been exacerbated by it.
However, the pandemic is far from the only factor influencing mental health issues among healthcare professionals. In addition to depression, anxiety, and PTSD, these workers also often suffer from burnout due to being understaffed and overworked, as well as physical and emotional stress from difficult work experiences like the loss of a patient.
These and other mental health issues add up quickly, snowballing into a vicious cycle of stress, depression, and burnout that causes even more of the same — for both the healthcare professionals themselves and the people around them.
Impact of Neglecting Mental Healthcare
Although mental health issues may not be as visible as physical health issues, their impacts can be just as devastating. Not only does poor mental health prevent healthcare professionals from performing at their best, but it can also affect the mental and physical health of their patients and colleagues.
Overworked healthcare professionals who burn out and quit their jobs leave their former colleagues even more understaffed and overworked and heading toward burnout themselves. Those who don’t quit are stretched too thin to devote as much time to each patient as they should, causing some patients to fall through the cracks.
Additionally, untreated mental health issues negatively impact the workers’ ability to perform their duties, resulting in much lower quality of care for their patients.
Ways to Prioritize Healthcare Workers’ Mental Health
Since healthcare professionals are at such high risk for struggling with mental health issues, mental health care for these professionals must be prioritized.
Some contributing factors — like diminished workforces and the emotional toll of losing patients — are difficult or impossible to avoid. That said, there are still practical measures that can be taken to alleviate the day-to-day mental and emotional stress healthcare professionals face, including:
- Ensuring mental health resources (educational materials, counseling, etc.) are readily accessible to all employees
- Asking employees what kind of support they need and fulfilling those requests whenever possible
- Making employees feel valued, heard, and appreciated for all the work they do
- Allowing flexible training and scheduling options to give employees a greater sense of control over their hectic schedules
Like physical health issues, mental health issues must be prioritized and intentionally cared for. Not all of the above measures will be helpful to every employee, but each will go a long way toward helping create a more supportive environment for the mental health of all employees.
Mental Health Matters
Without proper care, depression, burnout, stress, and other common mental health issues among healthcare professionals can prevent health workers from providing quality care to their patients. Prioritizing their mental health care ensures they remain healthy and fit enough to do their jobs safely and effectively.
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