Treating Healthcare’s Mental Health Emergency


Lindsay Thomas

Content Writer

Healthcare is in crisis.

The industry is undergoing an intense transformation, driven by the post-pandemic landscape, generational shifts and growing conversations about mental health support. In October 2023, the CDC raised the alarm about a mental health crisis among health workers who, in 2022, reported that they were twice as likely to experience harassment on the job as they had been in 2018. Ongoing resignations are resulting in heavy workloads for remaining staff, and the prevalence of burnout and compassion fatigue—a unique form of strain that healthcare professionals face due to traumatic experiences like end-of-life situations, accidents and violence—is hurting those who stay.

As healthcare employers search for new staff, they’re encountering a workforce with changing expectations and increasing attention to personal well-being. To support employees—and bolster recruitment efforts—there are a few crucial considerations. We spoke with Dr. Matthew Dunn, an organizational psychologist and training specialist at Helio Health, to learn more about the three biggest trends he’s been observing.

Generational differences can create division between workers and management. 

    Gen Z workers are looking for an active role in their organizations. Statistically, they’re seeking involvement: whether through participation in corporate communications and decision-making or increased acknowledgment of their values. In fact, alignment between their ethics and their employers’ organizational values is one of the factors they weigh most heavily when choosing a job. While this can clash with the mindsets of older, more traditional managers, organizations that convey strong values and adhere to them are the most likely to retain Gen Z employees.

    Open dialogue between staff about mental health is necessary. 

    If an organization isn’t proactively discussing mental health, the implication is that it doesn’t consider it a priority. Leaders need to build platforms for open conversations to support their employees. Integrating mental health awareness into daily operations is one of the best ways to destigmatize discussions—and one of the greatest ways for managers to move past their assumptions to understand their workers’ lived experiences.

    Comprehensive training can cure organizational ailments.

    Mental health training is key. Helio Health uses a mental health first aid model, says Dr. Dunn. It relies on three main pillars: Noting distinct changes in an employee’s behavior; if that change is lasting longer than typically expected; and if it’s negatively impacting their life. Burnout and mental health challenges can coincide, so having a mental health model in place is crucial to determining which employees need help. And consider building trauma-informed training modeled after patient communication practices to build supportive rapport with employees.

    The mental health crisis in healthcare is escalating, but organizations can take proactive steps to address it. Attracting new talent to alleviate excessive staff workloads, fostering open communication channels and providing mental health training are critical for organizational success. By prioritizing the well-being of your workforce, you’re investing in your most valuable asset—your people.  

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