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Mental Health Awareness Month: How providers and other healthcare industry professionals can take care of their well-being

This Mental Health Awareness Month, learn practical tips on managing stress, preventing burnout, and ensuring top-notch patient care through personal well-being.

mental health awareness month

At a Glance

  • Mental Health Awareness Month is throughout May
  • Providers and healthcare industry professionals must prioritize their mental health to prevent burnout and maintain their ability to provide and contribute to high-quality care
  • There are various ways you can integrate self-care into daily routines — such as taking breaks, setting work boundaries, engaging in hobbies, and engaging in healthy discussions about mental health

Every May, millions celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Mental Health Awareness Month was founded in 1949 to increase awareness of mental health and well-being in America. 

While this awareness month supports anyone dealing with mental health challenges, groups often overlooked are providers and others in the healthcare industry. These essential roles strive to provide and contribute to high-quality patient care, but the stress of such a demanding job can affect their mental health. 

Here’s a look at how the workplace affects you as a provider or healthcare industry professional, and what you can do to care for your mental health. 

When is Mental Health Awareness Month?

Mental Health Awareness Month is observed annually in May. Those who want to support can wear the Mental Health Awareness ribbon, which is green and the international symbol of mental health awareness. Wearing it shows one’s allegiance to mental health advocacy. 

Understanding physician burnout

Unfortunately, when healthcare providers don’t prioritize their mental health, they can be subject to physician burnout. The American Medical Association (AMA) explains physician burnout is a long-term stress reaction causing emotional exhaustion.

Sarah Michelle, NP, a nurse educator, entrepreneur, and Founder of Sarah Michelle NP Reviews, suggests signs of physician burnout can include:

  • Becoming easily agitated
  • Decreased desire to go to work
  • Feeling emotionally drained from the work you do
  • Increased fatigue
  • Difficulty engaging in activities that were once meaningful to you

According to a 2024 report from Medscape, the primary reasons for physician burnout or depression were:

  • Professional stress
  • Number of work-related bureaucratic tasks
  • Too many hours at work
  • Lack of respect from administrative staff, employers, and coworkers

Mental health-related stigma is a continuous yet under-addressed problem that affects physicians and their patients. 

Mental health tips for providers and healthcare industry professionals

Until healthcare organizations take the initiative to provide better mental health services, providers and healthcare industry professionals must find alternative ways to prioritize their emotional wellness.

Below are tips to find mental balance at work. 

Be aware and present

Mental health awareness allows you to identify and characterize your emotions to understand any troublesome feelings your work may contribute. 

“Pay attention to how you feel, bring awareness to yourself and how you interact with your staff, patients, and your family,” says Sarah Bonza, MD, MPH, a double-board-certified family medicine and lifestyle physician and the Founder of Bonza Health. “Awareness is the starting point for knowing when it's time to change.”

Practice self-care

Self-care involves doing things that benefit your physical and mental health. 

“My top tip for healthcare providers to focus on their mental health is making self-care an essential part of their routine,” says Michael Kane, MD, a board-certified physician specializing in family medicine and psychiatry and the Chief Medical Officer at Indiana Recovery Center. “This might involve taking breaks during shifts, finding hobbies or activities outside of work time, seeking support from colleagues or therapists, and setting limits with work tasks.”

Dorothy Trottier, owner of Medical Specialty Billing, has found specific outside-of-work hobbies that help keep stress away. "I have different ways of taking care of myself, she shares. "I'm a knitter which can be meditative when done with no distractions. I read for pleasure, and belong to a women's group where there are lots of activities planned. I can't do all of them but try to do many."

I read for pleasure, and belong to a women's group where there are lots of activities planned. I can't do all of them but try to do many. ”
Dorothy Trottier, owner of Medical Specialty Billing

Cheri Freeman, owner of HRS Medical Billing and HRS Learning Center, gravitated toward one hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic that has continued to bring her peace of mind and gratitude.

"I discovered my perfect self-care during lockdown in the form of a new hobby: photography," Freeman shares. "Turns out my niche is nature photography, and it really helps me focus on the beauty of the world around me and set aside other stuff for a time by allowing me to be totally in the moment."  

She adds: "Of course, being an entrepreneur at my core, I have also turned my hobby into a side gig that is a lot of fun! I share my work in my online gallery and in a local co-op gallery where I volunteer my time, and this allows me to connect with other humans in a creative environment, which is important since I work from home."  

Engage in healthy discussions about mental health

Normalizing conversations about mental health can reduce stress and empower others to seek the help that they need.

"I am sure that I am not alone in feeling like there is always something I could be working on for a client or for my business," says Michelle Carlin, psychiatric nurse practitioner at Monarch Health & Wellness. "I have joined some self-care groups in the area that were started by other mental health professionals in the area specifically for other mental health professionals. Those have been nice because they include things like yoga, sound healing, journaling, meditation, and reading in addition to being able to discuss work stressors."

I am sure that I am not alone in feeling like there is always something I could be working on for a client or for my business. ”
Michelle Carlin, psychiatric nurse practitioner

Take rest breaks 

Find time to rest during the workday and after you clock out — and remember the importance of time off work. 

“I make sure to rest at various points during the workday and find relaxation methods after a demanding work shift,” Dr. Kane says. “If I don't look after myself properly, I won't be able to take the best care of my patients.”

Marina V. Plantz, general manager and executive coach at Jersey Medical Care, says she encourages all forms of creativity within her team. "Sometimes this looks like a random brainstorming session about marketing; sometimes it is a mile walk at lunch while someone tells us about all the flowers we see along the way," she shares. "Sometimes it's an awarded day off that you use to do something that sparks creativity." 

Set boundaries

Don’t be afraid to set and enforce boundaries at work. Know your limits, share them with your colleagues and administration, and be prepared to reinforce them — as people may forget they exist or try to dismiss them.  

Here are some tips for setting boundaries at your workplace:

  • Determine how much personal information you want to share
  • Respect other people’s boundaries — and speak up if someone crosses yours
  • Steer clear of office gossip
  • Define your work hours
  • Don’t skip out on your lunch breaks

How is the mental well-being of a provider important to patient care?

If you’re mentally unwell, it can affect your work ethic and thus impact your patient care. 

According to Dr. Bonza, a physician’s mental health is similar to an oxygen mask in an airplane. “Physicians have to be well themselves and able to focus before they can serve the needs of their patients effectively,” she says.

In medicine, a provider’s mental health is as essential as the patient’s. However, physician burnout reveals workplace issues hindering a provider’s ability to deliver quality and empathetic care to patients. 

Prioritize your mental health

During this mental health month, take the necessary steps to prioritize and protect your mental well-being as a healthcare provider.

“When you pay attention to your mental health, it is a way of guaranteeing that the dedication and attention you offer your patients stays at its best,” Dr. Kane says. “In healthcare work, which can be very demanding and stressful, it's extremely important for us to look after our wellness so we don't affect the quality of care we give others.”

In healthcare work, which can be very demanding and stressful, it's extremely important for us to look after our wellness so we don't affect the quality of care we give others. ”
Michael Kane, MD

If you are seeking emotional support, you can contact the 24-hour 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by texting or calling 988. For ideas on how to spread awareness and engage in healthy discussions about mental health, access SAMHSA's 2024 Mental Health Awareness Month toolkit.

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Taneia Surles, freelance healthcare writer

Taneia Surles, MPH, is a health and wellness writer, editor, and public health professional. She creates health education content for private health companies and online publications, including Healthline, Health, Everyday Health, Parents, AAPR, and Insider. Her focus areas include sexual health, mental health, and nutrition. She also specializes in productivity content for small businesses.

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