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Well-Being

Mental Health Awareness Month: Destigmatization and Creating Safe Spaces for Health Professionals

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." –Benjamin Franklin

Almost 50 percent of Americans will meet diagnostic criteria for a mental health disorder during their lifetime.* In a 2018 physician workload survey, 74 percent of physicians reported seeing symptoms of distress in others, and 52 percent of physicians reported feeling distressed themselves and 53 percent of physicians reported feeling mental health is a taboo discussion topic to discuss.

The stigma associated with mental health can make acknowledging the need for and seeking help extremely difficult. Health care professionals can feel reticent to seek treatment because of potential risks and challenges they identify to continue pursuing their careers. The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the mental health stress and challenges health care providers encounter day in and day out, along with the distress the pandemic caused for individuals' mental health.

As we conclude Mental Health Awareness Month, we focus this last week on destigmatizing and creating safe spaces for health care professionals. It is important to feel safe, trusted and comfortable with feeling vulnerable in order to support each other's mental health and seek professional help when needed and necessary.

Committing the time to create space to talk and normalize the challenges people face in their careers and professions as physicians and surgeons is central to destigmatizing mental health. We encourage you to explore the following resources, video and articles to learn more about supporting yourself and others with mental health issues.

Resources

How do we stop stigma? Conversation. Try these simple tips for talking.

Tips for Talking – Printable Tips Card

Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace and the ADA

Peer Support Programs for Physicians

How Healthcare Workers Can Support Each Other

Video

Mental health: 'We need to care for patients, but also ourselves'

Articles

9 Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigma

4 Ways To Destigmatize Mental Health At Work

Burned out by the pandemic, 3 in 10 healthcare workers consider leaving the profession

How COVID-19 May Be Destigmatizing Mental Health Issues in America

Breaking the Stigma: Mental Health and Doctors

Doctors, Facing Burnout, Turn to Self-Care

For doctors with mental illness, 'help me' can be the hardest words

Physician, Heal Thy Double Stigma — Doctors with Mental Illness and Structural Barriers to Disclosure

Physician health: reducing stigma and improving care

Footnotes

*Mehta SS, Edwards ML. Suffering in Silence: Mental Health Stigma and Physicians' Licensing Fears. Am J Psychiatry Resid J. 2018;13(11):2-4. Available at: https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp-rj.2018.131101. Accessed May 20, 2021.

†Carpenter G. Physician workload survey 2018. August 1, 2018. Available at: https://locumstory.com/spotlight/physician-workload-survey-2018/. Accessed May 20, 2021.