Did you know that about half of all employee turnover is attributable to burnout? That figure is probably even higher for the behavioral health workforce. In this field, the work we do is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be heartbreaking and traumatic. We tend to take our worries home with us, trying to understand where we went wrong when a client doesn’t respond to treatment — or worse, dies after leaving our program. In the best of times, behavioral healthcare staff work under difficult conditions: funding cuts, restrictions on service delivery, changing certification and licensure standards, and limited salaries.
Then came the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic. Now, we’re coping with increased demand for substance use and mental health treatment and it’s coming at a pace that’s hard for us to meet. Amidst added work for COVID-19 precautions, telehealth service delivery, coping with client complaints about new restrictions, and our own personal concerns, burnout is just about inevitable.
Yet, with our natural inclination to prioritize clients and help others, many behavioral healthcare workers fail to notice when the workload begins to negatively affect our own mental health. We often ignore or undervalue our signs of exhaustion. This just creates a worsening cycle where employees struggling with burnout begin to feel unappreciated, unsupported, and overburdened with the workload or feeling that nothing they do is good enough.
Quitting your job is not the only answer. Coping with burnout is not only possible, it’s a critical need. Understand that you’re only human and there will be days when you’re overwhelmed at work. Here are some things you can do:
- Seek out a mentor in your field. If possible, set a regular time to meet for supportive chats.
- Pay attention to your own physical and mental health. Focus on good nutrition, regular exercise, stress management techniques, mindfulness practices such as yoga or meditation, adequate sleep, healthy social outlets and making time for fun hobbies or other activities. Don’t isolate yourself after work.
- Talk to your supervisor. Discuss your concerns, brainstorm solutions, and work on an action plan. Make it a constructive discussion and not a gripe session.
- If you’re in recovery, step up meetings with your therapist, support group, sponsor or other people in your recovery support network.
And if I haven’t been able to tell you in person, let me say it now. Every staff person and volunteer at L.A. CADA is part of our success. We couldn’t do what we do without you, and you are appreciated more than you’ll ever know.
Learn more about: dealing with work burnout – advice from clinicians