Statements by Vice President Harris on mental health and well-being

National Children’s Hospital
Washington, DC

14:58 EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon everyone. Good afternoon. Monique and I were talking behind the scenes, and I wondered about her work. And he said, “I … I can’t imagine doing anything else.” Between all that you do every day and all that you suffer — and I asked you the same thing, “Would you do anything else?” “You haven’t left yet.” (Laughter.) And I know you can’t let go.

And – I really think it’s a great gift for all of you who work and give. And so it was very important for me and the President to be here today to thank all of you. Thank you.

And, Monique, thank you for sharing your story and for the 16 years of service you have provided.

So before I start talking a little more about the importance of mental health, I want to start giving you an update on the shortage of infant formula.

The first military plane landed yesterday with over 70,000 pounds of specialty formula, and the second will arrive this week.

I know the situation is terrifying for our parents and the caregivers who are caring for these children. Our administration is working every day to ensure that there is a safe enough baby formula available for all who need it. And it really is one of our top priorities.

So today – (applause) – okay, yes. And collectively, I know, one of our top priorities.

Today we are here to talk about improving the mental health and well-being of health workers. And it’s my honor, of course, to have our chief surgeon, Vivek Murthy, here.

Dr. Murthy, I will tell you that you have done a great job in your career, and in particular, that you have been tireless in your fight against COVID-19. And you have been — and I have witnessed this since the early days of our administration — the voice of confidence during the pandemic. So on behalf of our nation, thank you, Dr. Murthy. Thank you. (Applause.)

And I’m also very proud to be with the people at the great National Children’s facility: doctors, nurses, health care providers, hospital staff, and support staff.

A life of service, and especially about our children, and all of you who have chosen to heal, protect, and care for them, as you do, I know is very personal.

And I will tell you, I – I – most of my career – in fact, my whole career – children have been one of my main focus – what we can do to protect them, to protect them, to protect them. welfare, and feeding them in every way we know we have a responsibility to do as a society.

You know, when we talk about our kids, I know for this group, we all think that when we talk about kids in the community, they are kids in the community. And so we should all feel a direct responsibility for their well-being.

When I was a young prosecutor many years ago, I saw firsthand how harmful childhood experiences can have a lasting impact on mental health. And for decades, I have struggled to improve the health and well-being of children.

As a San Francisco District Attorney, I helped set up a Youth Welfare Center to help children who were struggling with the effects of the trauma.

And as the Attorney General of California, I appointed a new office for the California Department of Justice to appoint a Child Justice Office to protect children from the types of trauma that can affect their lives.

I think the work you all do is really outstanding work to help the children and families of this community and our town.

For many who pass through the doors of this hospital, they spend this time here, probably one of the most difficult moments of their lives.

And as a doctor, as a nurse, as an employee, you provide life-saving medical care. And you also offer comfort when you need it most. Your compassion, I truly believe, is clear in the midst of darkness, often. And you do so much to take care of your patients when they need them, which is why I’m here to tell you that we need to do a better job of caring for you.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, paid more attention to the mental health of workers in our health care system. And we’ve been asking you so much over the last couple of years.

Some of you have fallen into the hands of those who were dying for their loved ones.

You all worked on the clockwork long before you understood how COVID-19 spread or what it did to your body. And before you got the vaccine or the protective equipment — the kind you needed — you were still here doing the work.

You spent hours, many in a windowless room, talking about how you felt unable to speak or just talking to a small group that really understood what you were going through. But you did it anyway.

So we have an urgent need, in my opinion, to deal with all of this and, of course, to deal with what has caused it: the stress you experienced lately because of the pandemic, the burnout, the mental health challenges.

However, I will say, and we know, that there was a problem, that this burn problem existed even before the pandemic. And I would like to acknowledge and thank the unions here, who have long been the main voices on this issue.

And, you know, the term “burnout” was coined in the 1970s to describe the mental consequences of a psychologist working in a clinic.

It’s a noble opportunity to dedicate your life to helping people, but it often requires sacrificing so much of yourself.

In 2019, more than half of all health care workers said they felt burnt. And that was, again, before that pandemic.

Each of you has made tremendous sacrifices to save lives in impossible conditions, which is why President Joe Biden and I are fighting to transform the way mental health is understood, perceived, and treated for all Americans, and especially for our health care workers.

You deserve the opportunity to get the mental health you need. You deserve help and understanding when you are struggling. And you deserve working conditions that support your mental health.

That’s why our administration has invested more than $ 100 million in expanding mental health resources, including funding for health care organizations, to create evidence-based programs around the mental health and well-being of their employees.

In addition, we have dedicated $ 200 million to training the next generation of community health workers, including staff who specialize in mental health and are also a trusted voice in their communities.

And today, Dr. Murthy released a new piece of advice from Surgeon General to address the burnout of health care workers. It will include practical guidelines for making workplace conditions safer, and will recommend the elimination of policies that penalize people seeking mental health or addiction support.

I urge hospital systems and administrators to follow the advice of the Chief Surgeon.

You know, this is the ultimate account. You know, this is a way of thinking about mental health: if you know someone who has broken their arm, you would help them. You would make sure they went to the hospital to pick up a caste. And once you get home – well, on the way home, you would probably open the door, help yourself back home to get the help you need to heal from the point where you feel pain. there is only healing.

We need to do the same for mental health. I think for too long our system has not understood the importance of this. I think for a long time, when we think about health care, we act like we are starting from the neck, instead of understanding that we need to deal with health over the neck: mental health.

So if you’re struggling, please know that you’re not alone, that they see you, and that you deserve the support you want and the support you need.

The President and I are fighting to expand the mental health of all Americans, because they should all have the support they need to move forward.

So with that, I want to thank each and every one of you again for the work you do. You are the angels who walk among us. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 15:09 EDT

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