Dr. Howard Liu: Reconnecting for Better Mental Health

Dr. Howard Liu has had a front-row seat to the mental health impacts of the pandemic through his work as a child psychiatrist and Chair of the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) Department of Psychiatry. He argues that one of the most critical factors to improving mental health is reconnecting with one another as we shake off the effects of isolation.

The workplace has evolved, with many employees embracing the benefits of remote work – even medical professionals. In fact, Dr Liu and his colleagues have found that the majority of their patients prefer the convenience of telehealth. Yet, he also cautions that teams have to work harder to maintain a spirit of collaboration.

“We have to be more intentional about culture at work since it can be harder to create bonds when we aren’t together,” he says.

Because of his work with children – and the fact that he’s a dad himself – Dr. Liu is often asked how to create a healthier environment for and stronger relationships with your kids. The secret? More play, he says. Spending unstructured time with your child can help you discover what they’re passionate about and even what’s worrying them.

Play is important for adults in the workplace, too, he emphasizes, suggesting that teams do something as simple as moving a meeting outside, where the fresh air can help stimulate more spontaneous discussions and creative ideas.

In today’s episode, Dr. Liu talks to Ana and Jamie about how a love of history led him to his work as a psychiatrist for teens, what to look for in choosing a mental health professional, fresh ways to connect with colleagues in person or online, how wealth health can affect your financial decisions and the one policy he would change to improve mental health.

Key Takeaways

  • When looking for a mental health professional, make sure you feel a connection. Without trust, they’re unlikely to help you, no matter how skilled they are.
  • Connecting with colleagues on social media can be another way to nurture relationships. Seeing them in a more authentic setting and learning about their families, pets and interests helps create a deeper layer of connection.
  • Virtual activities can take the place of in-person events, yet sometimes they can feel forced. Ask your team for their input on how to inject creativity into remote gatherings.


“One of the only good things coming out of the pandemic is that more people are comfortable talking about mental health, including their own mental health, whereas before we used to whisper about it or only talk in small circles of trust.” – Dr. Howard Liu


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