Stigma drives mental health of healthcare workers into the shadows

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  1. Virginia O'Hearn

    I have hidden my depression for the whole 35 years that I have been a Registered Nurse. I have been off a number of times and shamed by management and ridiculed. I am off right now and was threatened with discipline by my manager when I return to work. I am made to feel guilty for leaving the area short staffed and am told that I don’t LOOK or SOUND sick. I feel guilty that I am off work. I have been ridiculed for not coping with stress and am told that I should “suck it up”. Mental health days are not allowed. Mental illness is not believed. I work at a place that says they support any appointments that you need to take….on your own time. Where is that support? When you have physio, massage, chiropractic or counseling appointments on a regular basis, you establish a set time and day. None or few of these appointments can be done “outside work time”. Management in my experience has NEVER been supportive and have ridiculed anyone that has had any issues. I was at one point having suicidal thoughts and my manager at the time joined in with the bullies in tormenting me. The Union did NOTHING to support me as it would be “member against member ” and that “costs too much” to defend a victim of bullying. So tell me HOW any of this is going to get any better? I am a good nurse and I give good care but I get NO support.

  2. Ediriweera Desapriya

    Timely important perspective and thank you for sharing Dr. Sukhera. I certainly agree with you that the stigma around getting help needs to end (1). The stakes are too high, and no one should struggle alone. With the Covid-19 pandemic, medicine is at a crisis point. Health care professionals are responding with an astounding display of selflessness, caring for patients despite the risk of profound personal harm (2). COVID-19 pandemic presents an ongoing disruption to health care providers’ everyday lives that has significant implications to their psychological wellbeing. Meaningful conversation and engagement with health care providers to create a work environment and design it the way to enhance mutually respectful and caring workplace that enables clinicians to prevent and better cope up with the burnout. It is critical to pay special attention to how they are feeling and help them to react to the situation and meaningful resource allocation on their self-care.

    (1). Desapriya EB, Nobutada I. Stigma of mental illness in Japan. Lancet. 2002; 25;359(9320):1866. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(02)08698-1. PMID: 12044414.
    (2). Hartzband P, Groopman J. Physician Burnout, Interrupted. N Engl J Med. 2020 Jun 25;382(26):2485-2487. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp2003149. Epub 2020 May 1. PMID: 32356624.

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