Annual Conference

TheMHS 2014 S018: Prevention – Burnout in the Mental Health Sector

By August 27, 2014 No Comments

You can read an abstract for this presentation here.

Dr Marieke Ledingham presented the findings of her study that investigated the attitudes and beliefs of Mental Health Professionals towards burnout.

Burnout can occur after sustained occupational stress. It involves emotional depletion, depersonalisation and reduced personal accomplishment. Research has found that mental health professionals often fail to recognise the symptoms of burnout. Often they do not seek help until experiencing significant emotional and physical breakdown.

Dr Marieke’s study asked why this was the case and her findings were:

1. Mental Health Professionals see burnout as a personal failure instead of a legitimate workplace hazard.

2. Mental Health Professionals find it difficult to notice early signs of burnout in themselves. Burnout in itself seems to compromise self-assessment and decision making abilities.

3. Mental Health Professionals blame themselves for burnout and as such often hide symptoms and neglect self-care.

4. Mental Health Professionals experience the following cognitive biases:

  • Illusion of control: they believe that they have control over their well-being when they don’t.
  • Optimism bias: For example “It won’t happen to me.”
  • Dichotomous terms: ‘all or nothing thinking’. Professionals don’t seek help until completely burnt out.

Based on these findings Dr Ledinghams outlines her suggestions to help  reduce the rate of burnout amongst Mental Health Professionals:

1. A collaborative effort towards managing stress in the workplace, with peer and management support.

2. Consideration of external influences on well-being (e.g. workload and environment).

3. Reduce the stigma associated with burnout by having frequent discussions on the topic.

4. Burnout needs to be seen as legitimate a health and safety risk as physical injury.

Post by Mary-Anne Lawrence