Healthcare Series: The Climb to Destigmatizing Mental Health | Nigel Girgrah

Nigel Girgrah is the Chief Wellness Officer at Ochsner Health System where he strives to illustrate vulnerability and destigmatize mental health in the workplace.

During the pandemic, there was an increase in mental health needs. While mental health isn’t anything new, leaders are constantly having to adapt to new situations and environments.  In this episode, listen as Nigel shares how he and his team prioritize mental health awareness, destigmatization, and develop resources to help their employees perform at their best. 

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Truth You Can Act On:

1. Get a Collective A-game
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Nigel Girgrah: “There’s really no industry more complex than healthcare. As I think about it, in order to meet the challenges associated with healthcare reform, we need the collective of our healthcare workers to achieve great things. I look at wellbeing in the workplace as a vehicle to get there and burnouts are kind of an existential threat to achieving those goals.”

2. Remove Barriers
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Nigel Girgrah: “Getting back to the need to de-stigmatize mental health,  I think there are two components to that. One is really creating a belief system that it’s okay to come forward. The second component is we have to remove barriers. I go back to SARS one in Toronto. Some of the good things that seem to happen from that is licensing agencies sort of removing explicit questions about mental health from license renewals. Credentialing boards for removing specific questions about mental health. It’s one thing to sort of say, ‘Hey, believe it. It’s okay.’ But if we send messages every year that say, ‘Tell me if you have a history of mental health.’ That sort of just creates confusion.”

3. Remember Your Strategy
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Nigel Girgrah: “Pre-COVID, the office I lead had a pretty solid evidence-based wellbeing strategy that was just focused at that time on our physicians and our advanced practice providers. It was heavily focused on things like practice efficiency, promoting advanced team-based care, and developing our leaders because these were the things that appeared to drive professional fulfillment the most, and resilience is a part of that.”

4. Practice Vulnerability
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Nigel Girgrah: “Everybody has their own story, but people probably aren’t prepared to come forward with this story. I sent an open letter in September to all 30,000 employees that was entitled: ‘How are you really?’ I talked about myself. I talked about the mental health stigma in healthcare, and the reception was overwhelming. It was the most read executive message that had been sent out. And it wasn’t just people reading it. There were two-page email responses. It really seemed to resonate, and I say that because vulnerability precedes trust.”

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