MGMA 2022: Doctors don't have to be mental health experts to become mental wellness advocates

MGMA 2022: Doctors don’t have to be mental health experts to become mental wellness advocates

Lack of providers and stigma are barriers to seeking needed care, but meaningful conversations can help.

Not all physicians need to be mental health experts to help their colleagues, staff, and patients improve their mental well-being.

Mental health isn’t just about people with mental illnesses, which can make up about 5% of people, said Leia Spoor, MPH, DABLM, clinical director in the Texas offices of employee counseling firm Holmes Murphy & Associates. Spoor presented, “Creating a Culture Where Mental Wellness is OK,” at the Medical Group Management Association’s 2022 Leaders in Medical Practice Excellence Conference.

Rather, everyone has mental wellbeing, which exists on a spectrum of four categories that can change by day, hour or moment, depending on circumstances, Spoor said. In addition to mental illnesses, other people may languish or have functional impairments due to extreme stress, depression or self-medication.

Most people, around 75%, live and work every day with moderate mental health, dealing with daily stressors that could be better managed. The goal is to support a general shift for everyone towards thriving, being in good shape mentally and physically in life, Spoor said.

A Gallup poll showed a national regression from 2019, when 76% of people said their mental health was excellent, to 2021, when that figure fell to 34%. It’s the biggest drop in a lifetime, due to factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s controversial politics and societal unrest, Spoor said.

While it’s clear that more people may need help, the national average wait time for behavioral health services is 48 days. Lack of providers is on the list of reasons people don’t seek help, but so is stigma – a negative perception that causes someone to think less of a person, or to stereotype or label a person as due to illness.

Physicians and healthcare workers can help overcome this by becoming advocates willing to do three things:

  • Notice changes that are not typical or unusual for a person.
  • Talk to that person, check in, and let them know you care.
  • Take action, offering to connect this person with appropriate services and supports.

Advocates don’t have to suggest diagnoses or treatment options, and Spoor used a medical analogy to describe the role. Not everyone is a cardiologist, but many people learn CPR in order to help others if needed.

Similarly, not everyone has to become a mental health expert. But they can engage other people in meaningful conversations, Spoor said.

His advice:

  • Keep asking. Questions don’t have to be complicated or intrusive to start a conversation.
  • Be real. Be authentic, describe what you mean, and ask the person to clarify if that’s what they mean.
  • Be understandable and don’t worry about what to say back. The goal is not to solve the problem, but to listen, to be interested, to help the person to feel listened to and less alone, so that they feel less stressed.

In health care, physicians and leaders must remember that the whole person comes to work every day, with concerns about their career, finances, social and emotional connections, community involvement, and physical health. , Spoor said.

Leaders should compile information and help staff understand available resources, starting with employee health benefits, and other possible resources such as health and wellness, weight loss programs, advocacy and care services.

One easy resource is the new 988 National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which debuted in July, Spoor said.

Leaders also need to be hands-on, as not all solutions require a new vendor program or website. For example, if a worker is stressed by a family situation, help can be as simple as allowing compensation time or flexibility to start 30 minutes late and then make up time later in the day, a she declared.

#MGMA #Doctors #dont #mental #health #experts #mental #wellness #advocates

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *