Our government is sounding the alarm on health worker burnout


The US Surgeon General formally addresses health care worker burnout.


The timing couldn’t be more appropriate. As we near the end of Mental Health Awareness Month and our annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, our country’s Surgeon General has just sounded a kind of Mayday alarm about burnout and resignation of health workers. As we know, this includes psychiatrists and other mental health caregivers.

The alarm acknowledges the added stress and trauma of the pandemic on a crisis that had been developing for about a decade or more before that. As Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, is quoted in the press release:

“. . . they tell us what our gratitude should look like: genuine support and systemic change that allows them to continue to serve to the best of their abilities. »1

For years, doctors have tried to combat their epidemic of burnout in a number of ways, with modest success at best. Colleagues and I edited a book on how psychiatrists could help lead the way, and we still can, although our organizational effort seems to have stalled.2 Now, as the alarm signals, burnout is rising again and spreading to public health workers and low-wage health workers.

There are recommendations, including:

-Listen to and empower health workers;

-Ensure the safety of healthcare workers;

-Reduce administrative costs;

-Priority to teams and social support; and

-Invest in increasing the workforce.

This isn’t the first such mental health advisory to come out of Surgeon General Murthy’s office. In December 2021, an advisory on the youth mental health crisis was issued.3 It is unclear whether any progress was made in the months that followed.

Credit should be given for reporting yet another mental health crisis. It should also help the public understand this threat to their own well-being. Additionally, burnout is a growing problem for many workers in other fields, as well as parents. This, along with political and social divisions, now including abortion laws, strongly and ominously suggest that we have a general mental health crisis in this country.

These notices can only be considered the first comprehensive general government action. Actions are needed ASAP, and action must address the power role of for-profit corporations that control health care and other aspects of our lives. Yes, President Biden’s administration has a national mental health strategy as part of the unity agenda, but will it work well enough and fast enough, and will it stay in power long enough, to make a significant difference ?

Does anyone favor a single-payer government system like most other nations or, at least, an expansion of Medicare?

Doctor Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specializes in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the unique designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout professional, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. for a better world. He sits on the editorial board of Psychiatric Times™.


1. Addressing Healthcare Worker Burnout: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Opinion on Creating a Thriving Healthcare Workforce. American surgeon general. 2022. Accessed May 24, 2022. https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/priorities/health-worker-burnout/index.html

2. Loboprabhu S, Summers R, Moffic HS, eds. Combating Physician Burnout: A Guide for Psychiatrists. edition of the American Psychiatric Association; 2019.

3. The US Surgeon General issues an advisory on the youth mental health crisis further exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. American surgeon general. December 7, 2021. Accessed May 24, 2022. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2021/12/07/us-surgeon-general-issues-advisory-on-youth-mental-health-crisis-further-exposed-by-covid-19- pandemic.html


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