Harris calls for greater attention to mental health in hospital visit
Vice President Harris spent Monday afternoon at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., paying tribute to the country’s health care workers and putting a spotlight on mental health in the industry.
Harris recognized the work of the health care community particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic and said that the United States must do a better job of offering mental health services for its health care workforce.
“Your compassion I truly believe is light in the midst of darkness often, and you do so much to take care of your patients in their time of need, which is why I’m here to say we need to do a better job taking care of you,” Harris told a small audience of nurses and doctors on Monday.
“I think for too long when we think about health care, we act as though the body just starts from the neck down instead of understanding we also need to address health care from the neck up — mental health,” she said. “So, if you are struggling, please know you are not alone, that you are seen and that you deserve to receive the help you desire and the help you need.”
Harris, whose speech came in the middle of Mental Health Awareness Month, said the Biden administration is working to improve mental health care for all Americans, including those in the health care field.
The vice president’s appearance at the hospital alongside Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was meant to highlight a new surgeon general’s advisory that makes new recommendations to address health care worker burnout. The administration has also dedicated more than $100 million from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law passed last year to address burnout.
In addition to giving a speech, Harris toured a wing of the hospital, hearing from doctors and nurses there about their experiences. She also shared some words with a young patient at the hospital, an impromptu moment that saw Harris delight when she learned the young girl was the vice president of her class.
“Look at this, it’s the meeting of the vice presidents,” Harris said. “You’re so strong and smart. I love meeting our young leaders.”
Asked by a reporter what her message was to health care workers, Harris replied that she wanted to promote a greater understanding of the mental health impact of their work and call for more resources to address them.
“We’re here to say let’s understand what they’re doing, let’s support them and in part let’s understand it’s a lot. They grieve also. They experience pain also when they see human suffering,” she said.
Harris also made a point at the beginning of her prepared remarks to share an update on the domestic infant formula shortage and the Biden administration’s efforts to address it.
Harris noted that the first military plane carrying infant formula from overseas arrived on Sunday and that another is scheduled to land in the U.S. later this week.
“I know this is a scary situation for our parents and the caregivers who are taking care of these babies,” Harris said, adding that the Biden administration is working “around the clock” to ensure there is enough formula and that the issue is one of its highest priorities.
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