Demoralization in Mental Health Organizations: Leadership and Social Support Help
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- Gabel, S. Psychiatr Q (2012) 83: 489. doi:10.1007/s11126-012-9217-3
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Demoralization is a commonly observed feeling state that is characterized by a sense of loss of or threat to one’s personal values or goals and a perceived inability to overcome obstacles toward achieving these goals. Demoralization has features in common with burnout and may precede or accompany it. Psychiatrists working in many mental health care organizational settings, be they in the public or private sectors, may be at particular risk for demoralization. This is due partly to stressors that threaten their own professional values because of factors such as programmatic cut backs, budgetary reductions and changing social emphases on the value of mental health treatments. They also may be at risk for demoralization because of the effects on them of the governance styles of the agencies in which they are employed. The leadership or governance style in large organizational settings often is authoritarian, hierarchical and bureaucratic, approaches that are antithetical to the more participative leadership styles favored by many mental health professionals in their clinical activities. Clinical leaders in mental health organizations must exhibit various competencies to successfully address demoralization in clinical staff and to provide a counterbalance to the effects of the governance style of many agencies in which they are employed. Appropriate leadership skills, sometimes too simplistically termed “social support”, have been found to reduce burnout in various populations and are likely to lessen demoralization as well. This paper reviews these important leadership issues and the relationship of social support to recognized leadership competencies.