In this podcast (episode #429) and blog, I talk to Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Vivek Murthy about the role workplaces play in their employee’s mental and physical health, how to help organizations support the wellbeing of their workers, the opportunity for growth in a workplace, and so much more!
Dr. Vivek H. Murthy was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March 2021 to serve as the 21st Surgeon General of the United States. As the Nation's Doctor, the Surgeon General's mission is to help lay the foundation for a healthier country, relying on the best scientific information available to provide clear, consistent, and equitable guidance and resources for the public. And as the Vice Admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Dr. Murthy commands a uniformed service of over 6,000 dedicated public health officers, serving the most underserved and vulnerable populations domestically and abroad.
While serving as 21st Surgeon General, Dr. Murthy is focused on drawing attention to and working across government to address a number of critical public health issues, including the growing proliferation of health misinformation, the ongoing youth mental health crisis, well-being and burnout in the health worker community, and social isolation and loneliness.
As Dr. Murthy points out, there is no stark separation between our mind and body. Mental health is health, which is why he is so passionate about his work regarding the whole person and human wellbeing.
We all need to recognize that things like loneliness are profound public health issues. They are not just “in our heads” or experiences we have to suffer through alone.
Indeed, loneliness is part of the human experience. Like hunger or thirst, it is a signal our body sends us when we lack something we need for survival. It is not something to be ashamed of — the science shows that we need relationships for survival.
There is an urgent need to teach people the importance of building a connected life. There is no shame in needing other people. As human beings, we are made for relationships. We need to tell people that depending on others is NOT weakness. Whether we are “extroverts” or “introverts”, we all need a level of human connection. Relationships help us heal, deal with stress, and lift up our moments of joy.
This is why Dr. Murthy has made it his life’s work to think of ways we can design our lives and workplaces to support human connection and improve human wellbeing. He has created an incredible 30-page framework for organizations to help improve their employee’s mental health and wellbeing, which includes:
- Establishing work-life harmony that is characterized by autonomy and flexibility.
- Protecting workers from harm through the creation of a safe and secure environment.
- Providing opportunities for growth through learning and accomplishments.
- Making workers feel like they matter at work and giving them a sense of dignity and meaning.
- Giving employees a sense of connection and community at work through social support and feeling like they belong.
Dr. Murthy created this framework to help “build workplaces that are engines of well-being, showing workers that they matter, that their work matters, and that they have the workplace resources and support necessary to flourish.”
Our workplaces have a powerful impact on our mental health, for the better or for the worse. When we design our workplaces to support mental health, two things happen: workers are healthier and happier, and workplaces are better too because people’s productivity and creativity are enhanced.
This is an incredibly urgent undertaking. As Dr. Murthy points out in his framework, “with more than 160 million people participating in the United States workforce and with the average full-time worker in the United States spending about half of their waking life at work, workplaces play a significant role in shaping our mental and physical well-being. Employers have a unique opportunity not only to invest in the mental health and well-being of their workforce, but also to strengthen their organizations’ success by doing so.”
Dr. Murthy notes how “a healthy workforce is the foundation for thriving organizations and healthier communities,” and, “as we recover from the worst of the pandemic, we have an opportunity and the power to make workplaces engines for mental health and well-being, and this Surgeon General’s Framework shows us how we can start… It will be worth it, because the benefits will accrue for workers and organizations alike.”
For more on mental health in the workplace, listen to my podcast episode with Dr. Vivek (episode #429), and check out his amazing work. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
You can now also join me on Patreon for exclusive, ad-free content! Sign up for a membership level that suits you, and receive access to ad-free exclusive bonus podcasts. These episodes will include more targeted, step-by-step guides for specific mental health issues AND some fun, more personal podcasts about topics like my favorite skincare products and favorite books, as well as live Q&As, fan polls and requests, and exclusive digital downloads!
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4:20 Dr. Vivek’s amazing work
7:20 The power of social connection
11:40 Loneliness & health
13:32, 22:00 Why we need to change the way we deal with mental health in the workplace
19:00 We all need relationships!
35:20 The power of connecting with people’s stories
36:50 We are so much more than what we do for a living
38:00 Why workplaces need to support mental health
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