How Do I Know if I Have PTSD?

We often get asked the question, ” I’m having some of the symptoms of PTSD.  How do I know if I have PTSD?” The only way to know for sure if you have PTSD is to talk to your physician or a mental health care provider. He or she will ask you about your trauma, your symptoms, and any other problems you are having. If you think you might have PTSD, answer the questions in the screening tool below. Keep in mind that this tool is offered for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

PTSD Screening

Sometimes things happen to people that are unusually or especially frightening, horrible, or traumatic. For example, a serious accident or fire, a physical or sexual assault or abuse, an earthquake, flood, tornado or hurricane, a war, seeing someone be killed or seriously injured, or having a loved one die through homicide or suicide.

Have you ever experienced this kind of event? Yes / No

If yes, please answer the questions below.

In the past month, have you:

  • Had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s) when you didn’t want to?
  • Tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)?
  • Been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled?
  • Felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings?
  • Felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s) or any problems the event(s) may have caused?

If you answered “yes” to 3 or more of these questions, please talk to a mental health care provider to learn more about PTSD and PTSD treatment. Answering “yes” to 3 or more questions does not mean you have PTSD. Only your physician or mental health professional can tell you for sure if this is what you are experiencing.

Also, please keep in mind that regardless of your score on this educational screening, if you are having thoughts and feelings about some recent traumatic event or one that took place long ago and these thoughts and feeling are troubling you, or if you are concerned about your use of alcohol or other drugs, speak with a mental health professional.

June 2020 is PTSD Awareness Month. To learn more about PTSD’s symptoms and its effective treatments, please visit our blog post here, or visit The National Institute of Mental Health or The National Center for PTSD

Educational Survey was adopted from:

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/publications/print/understandingptsd_booklet.pdf

About Espyr

Espyr’s innovative mental health solutions, coaching and assistance programs have been helping employees and organizations achieve their full potential for 30 years. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.

How To Realize The Benefits of Mental Health

Our society has come a long way in overcoming the stigma of mental health.  Most people now recognize the importance of mental health and how common mental health disorders are.   However, the the stigma of mental health remains among us.  Furthermore, knowing how to realize the benefits of mental health is still not well understood by many.

Mental Health Awareness Month was conceived for just those purposes – eliminating the stigma of mental health, creating greater awareness of mental health issues and helping people realize the benefits of mental health.

We found a recent article by Kelly Miller, BA, CAPP in PositivePsychology.com especially helpful in addressing all of these issues and a summary of her writing follows.

The Benefits of Mental Health

The benefits of intentionally practicing to improve mental health are a response to the chronic stress reported at epidemic levels around the world. Chronic stress has been proven to deteriorate the hippocampus (McLaughlin, 2007). This stress also leads to decreased concentration and memory, confusion, loss of sense of humor, anger, irritability, and fear. Obviously, stress is not good for the brain, and improved mental health practices can reduce the risk.

Other benefits of mental health include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Reduction in anxiety.
  • Improved moods.
  • Clearer thinking.
  • A greater sense of calm or inner peace.
  • Increased self-esteem.
  • Reduced risk of depression.
  • Improvements in relationships.

The development of practical coping skills has never been more necessitated in this ever-changing world. Rather than continuing to simply soldier on, a focus on thriving through adversity is where mental health benefits can be achieved.

Fitness and Mental Health

Improved mental health has been well documented with the introduction of improved levels of physical fitness.  The fitness industry has decades of research showing the benefits of taking special and intentional care of one’s body. The concept of being mentally healthy is not necessarily new, but it certainly has more areas of growth in scientific research. This is likely because historically, medicine has studied what was wrong so that it could be cured.

A more recent approach to physical and mental well-being has been prevention. Exercise is a preventative activity for both physical and mental health. When you strengthen your body, there is less pain in aging. The same can be said for strengthening our mental health.

Benefits of mental health through physical fitness include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Sharper memory.
  • Clarity in thinking.
  • Higher self-esteem.
  • Better sleep.
  • Increased energy.
  • Stronger resilience.
  • Increased BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which improves neurotransmission.

Counseling

Counseling has, unfortunately, had a stigma attached. The medical model was developed to fix what was “broken.” People receiving counseling are not broken. Human beings are malleable and can rewire themselves. A professional counselor can help with this plasticity by allowing the release of painful or unhelpful thoughts and behaviors.

Potential Benefits of Counseling:

  • Improvement in communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Greater self-acceptance.
  • Increased self-esteem.
  • Improved self-expression and management of emotions.
  • Relief from depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
  • Clarity.

Coaching

Coaching is another area where practitioners can increase the benefits of mental health. While coaching is not therapy, it can be very therapeutic. Having a trained coach can create areas of growth that clear the way for massive personal improvement.

At Espyr, we’ve seen firsthand the benefits of coaching for many of our clients.  For many clients, counseling is either not necessary or viewed with stigma attached. Coaching is deemed more socially acceptable and fits perfectly  for situations where counseling is not required.

Potential Benefits of Coaching:

  • Learning acceptance and self-appreciation
  • Improved connection with self and others
  • Simplifying life
  • Reduced stress
  • Harmony and peace
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Reduction in isolation
  • Improvements in relationships
  • Improved communication
  • Overcoming procrastination
  • Gaining work and or life satisfaction
  • Increased self-reliance
  • Improved decision making
  • Mindset shifts
  • Increased self-worth
  • Improved time management skills

A Look at the Research

Exercise may be one of the most underused treatments for improving mental health. Research has shown that patients suffering from depressive or anxiety sensitive disorders benefit significantly from increased exercise interventions (Smits, 2008).

The research has not determined which type of exercise is the most beneficial for mental health. Aerobic exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system but also releases serotonin to improve mood. However, weight training and mind spirit practices like yoga show great benefits as well.

Journaling is another powerful tool used as an intervention in many different areas of well being. The benefits can be seen not only in mental, but also physical wellness. Research has shown improvement in breast cancer patient recovery through the use of journaling.

Adolescent use of reflective journaling has shown increases in self-efficacy, self-regulation, and self-motivation. Reflective journaling has also been used to the great benefit of those working to overcome addiction.

The use of a journal offers a space to release inner fears and stress as a reflective process. The reduction of stress and unwanted negative thoughts are benefits that are seen through consistent practice. Journaling has also been proven to improve critical thinking skills.

There is a limited amount of empirical research in the area of coaching. However, concerning men, coaching has had significant forward progress. Men tend to seek help less actively than women (McKelley, 2007) but are more likely to seek coaching due to the reduced stigma attached. While coaching is not therapy, it can benefit participants with clarity, perspective shifts, and improvements to motivation in all areas of life.

5 Things You Can Do To Realize The Benefits Of Mental Health

1. Move your body

If more people knew the benefits of exercise on avoidance of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, more people would be running to join a local gym. Exercise helps increase ROS (reactive oxygen species), resulting in decreases in the incidence of oxidative stress-related diseases (Deslandes, 2009). All disease has links to inflammation. Regular exercise increases the body’s ability to reduce that inflammation, therefore, slowing the aging process.

Start small and grow your exercise practice slowly and consistently. Jumping in with excessive weight training or aerobic exercise can be harmful and lessen the willingness to continue with the practice. A slow, steady increase in levels of activity is highly recommended. Nobody becomes The Rock overnight.

2. Counseling

When thoughts and feelings are interfering with your daily life, advice can be very helpful. Navigating trauma, depression, and anxiety, or other strains on mental health is complicated. Doing it alone makes it even more so. Reaching out for help from a professional doesn’t mean you’re weak; it means you’re ready to start getting stronger.

3. Coaching

People come to coaching for a variety of reasons. Coaches specialize their practices, just as counselors do, to best serve their clients. Seeking the services of a coach can help clients realize their power in their actions and generate motivation to move from A to B, while space is held by a trained professional.

4. Journaling

There are a million ways to start a journaling practice. Keeping track of thoughts, actions, and motivations can be very powerful when actively reflecting on personal change. It helps adults and children alike. It also shines a light on daily actions and whether one is being honest with oneself.

5. 12 Intentional Activities

Engaging in the activities that come most naturally to a practitioner are specific ways to improve mental health. The benefits are outlined in The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubmorisky. The “how” is always an individual approach but highly beneficial when intentionally focused.

  • Savor life
  • Nurture social relationships
  • Express gratitude
  • Commit to your goals
  • Create coping strategies
  • Practice acts of kindness
  • Engage in flow experiences
  • Cultivate optimism
  • Practice spirituality
  • Take care of your mind and body
  • Learn to forgive
  • Avoid over-thinking and social comparison

A Take-Home Message

The first step in realizing the benefits of mental health is recognizing the need for improvement. We all have work to do. There is no human (not even the Dalai Lama) who can say that they have achieved perfection in mental health. All humans face adversity, yet our ability to handle that adversity can grow like a muscle.

The benefits of mental health far outweigh the effort it takes to begin a practice for improvement. Whether it’s grabbing a friend to start a walking practice, or heading off to the store to pick out a notebook to start your journaling practice, you can begin today. We are all one decision away from the many benefits of mental health.

About Espyr

Espyr has been helping employees achieve and maintain good health – so they can perform their best – for 30 years.  Clients in the most challenging occupations rely on Espyr’s industry leading coaching, counseling and mental health advocacy  programs  to maintain employee health and well-being.  For more information contact Jeffrey Joo at 888-570-3479 or jjoo@espyr.com.

 

Family enjoying video game together

Maybe It Should Be National Happiness Month

May is national Mental Health Awareness Month.  It’s an opportunity for Americans to become more aware of how important good mental health is to us as individuals and to our society overall.  But how many of us think of mental health that way?  For many, the words mental health have a negative connotation and are often something  people feel uncomfortable talking about.

Let’s think of mental health in a different way.  What if May was Happiness Awareness Month? Now do I have your attention?  Good, because mental health and personal happiness and well-being are connected.  Personal investments in our mental health pay personal happiness dividends, while investments in mental health by employers, colleges and public policy makers pay societal dividends.  

Mental Health Basics

So let’s all get on the same page when we talk about mental health. 

First, it’s a part of all of us. Mental health is a term that includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life and life’s age-old companion, “stress”.  Importantly, it also helps determine how we handle these inevitable stresses, how we relate to our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, classmates and others,  the choices we make, how productive we are academically and in our occupations and professions as we strive to reach our full potential. Mental health is vitally important at every stage of life, from childhood to old age.

Mental Health vs. Mental Disorders

Second, while mental health is not an illness condition, mental disorders are.  Mental health disorders are common, affecting about 1 in 5 Americans annually, while nearly 3 out of 4 adults report at least one stress-related symptom (like stress induced headaches or feelings of being overwhelmed or of being very lonely). They can also be serious conditions that affect our mood, distort our thinking and change our behavior. They can be influenced by our particular life circumstances- like growing up in poverty or being a survivor of childhood trauma or intimate partner violence or experiencing unexpected life events like a divorce or sudden job loss.   They affect all ages, genders, races and socio-economic groups.  Only a narcissist thinks themselves invulnerable. And that’s a mental health condition too!

 

Sad looking woman

 

The Consequences of Poor Mental Health

Thirdly, poor mental has many negative consequences for individuals, economies and societies. One consequence is the impact on our physical health. Poor mental health increases one’s risk for Cancer, Heart ailments, Strokes, Diabetes and many other conditions.  These are costly conditions to treat and often diminish one’s happiness and quality of life.  One condition, Major Depression, is highly associated with suicide, the second leading cause of death among young people.  More Americans commit suicide each year than all who die in motor vehicle accidents or by gun violence.  

 

Mental Health conditions also often co-occur with medical conditions.  The mental health condition frequently complicates treatment plans and compliance with medical treatment.  The costs of medical treatment for patients with both serious mental health and physical conditions is 2 to 3 times higher than those without co-occurring conditions. Aside from the human suffering, these financial costs are borne by individuals through high out-of-pocket expenses and higher healthcare insurance rates, by employers who provide healthcare benefits to employees and pay taxes, and by taxpayers who pay for Medicaid and Medicare benefits.  There is a myriad of other consequences of poor mental health.  These  include the negative impacts on one’s livelihood or business, on our academic achievements, and on our ability to be productive member of society.

 

Maintaining Good Mental Health In The Time of COVID-19

Back to Happiness… there is a lot of good news even in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many things we can each do to promote and sustain our mental health and that of our children and loved ones. These include making time for regular exercise (this is a great stress reduction tool), practicing mindfulness and gratitude, making sure to make time to enjoy relaxation, hobbies or activities, staying connected to friends and social and spiritual groups ( while maintaining social distancing of course), and moderating your exposure to media and the 24/7 news cycle.

 

Family enjoying video game together

 

Good News For Those Experiencing Emotional Distress

Modern evidence-based treatments have never been more effective and available than today. Resources such as a healthcare provider, primary care doctor or mental health therapist can provide consultation and treatment. Employee Assistance Programs and hotlines help connect people to the right treatment resources. Self Help and Support groups of various kinds, as well online resources and helpful mental health apps have proliferated.  Many businesses, like Kaiser Permanente for instance, are taking a lead in promoting good mental health practices in the workplace and in normalizing discussions of mental health just as happens with physical health.  School systems have adopted anti-bullying initiatives. Colleges provide Student Assistance Programs to support student health and address the crisis of suicide in young adults.  The list goes on and on.  

Still, more awareness and sensitivity to mental health issues is needed and Mental Health Awareness Month is a great step toward that goal.   If you know someone that is struggling with stress, depression or anxiety, be aware that you may be their best resource.  You do not have to be a mental health professional nor offer solutions.  Just be a trusted listener who first asks, “How are you doing, and can we talk about it”?  Your supportive questions and compassionate listening may well help that person take their first step to getting the help they need.

Here is a list of some of the many free resources or sources of more information about Mental Health.

About Espyr

Espyr has been helping employees achieve and maintain good health – so they can perform their best – for 30 years.  Clients in the most challenging occupations rely on Espyr’s industry leading coaching, counseling and mental health advocacy  programs  to maintain employee health and well-being.  For more information contact Jeffrey Joo at 888-570-3479 or jjoo@espyr.com.

 

Coronavirus Anxiety is Spreading Fast

Thanks to the widespread and constant media coverage, we all know the factors that facilitate infectious pandemics like coronavirus (COVID-19). A rise in long-distance travel, increased international exchange and global climate changes are just some of the guilty parties helping the spread of disease across our planet faster than ever.

We also know how to minimize our risk of infection – washing hands properly, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home if sick, keeping surfaces clean and staying away from sick people.

According to a Psychiatric Times article, however, that same informative media coverage is also responsible for panic, stress and the potential for hysteria. Pandemics are not just a medical phenomenon; they can be the cause of anxiety-related behaviors, sleep disturbances and an overall lower perceived state of health, especially in individuals already suffering from mental illness.

How Many are Affected?

It’s still too early to know exactly how many are suffering from mental or emotional problems as a result of the most recent pandemic. But take note of how aware you have become of washing your hands, touching surfaces or getting on a plane. For most of us, these things are much more top-of-mind than they were just weeks ago.

There has been some research, however. In February, according to Bloomberg Opinion, the Chinese Psychology Society surveyed 18,000 asking if they felt anxiety related to the coronavirus outbreak. Almost 43% said yes.

Asian students wearing masks to protect themselves from coronavirus

What About Patients and Healthcare Workers?

Not surprisingly, the closer people are to the infection – like coronavirus patients, families of patients and healthcare workers – the greater the anxiety and overall mental toll. 

Quarantine is a prudent and necessary response to any viral outbreak, a critical step towards slowing the spread of the virus and providing valuable time to prepare. Yet, as also stated in Bloomberg Opinion, this isolation is usually accompanied by unwelcome (and under-reported) side effects, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress (or PTSD). After the SARS outbreak of 2002/2003, researchers identified how these events can take a mental toll on both patients and medical staff.

  • A study of 233 SARS survivors in Hong Kong found that 40% had “active psychiatric illness” years after the outbreak, including PTSD, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • 2006 study of 549 employees of a Beijing hospital that treated SARS patients found that 10% exhibited symptoms of PTSD.

Whether for patients, healthcare workers or the public at large, it’s clear that mental health care and treatment needs to be an integral part of the coronavirus recovery process. Long-term psychological effects could become the infection’s longest-lasting legacy.

How Can I Help My Employees Right Now?

When faced with situations that are uncertain and that we can’t control, it is normal to feel more anxious. Here are some helpful tips we provide to our clients to give to their employees, gathered from our team of coaches and counselors, as well as sources such as National Public Radio and the Wall Street Journal:

 

  • Manage Information – Find a credible, trusted source of information like the CDC website (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), your state public health agency or your primary care physician. Stay informed so you’re aware of current information like precautions, warnings or quarantines – but be careful about overloading on information as that can increase feelings of anxiety. Checking your trusted news source once or twice a day should provide the information you need.
  • Plan Ahead – Often, our anxiety increases when we feel a loss of control. While we can’t control if we come in contact with coronavirus, there are some things we can control – like planning ahead. Make plans now for how you would address childcare and work if you or other family members were to get sick or schools/business would close. Talk to your doctor about any prescription medications that may require refills. And take an inventory of non-perishable groceries and over-the counter medications you may want on hand.
  • Stay Connected – Talking to family and friends can be very helpful in relieving stress and anxiety (during a pandemic, or anytime).
  • Maintain Your Routine – Continuing to do the things as usual – like exercise and going to bed at the same time – are helpful in creating a sense of normalcy which helps reduce stress. 
  • Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Research shows many benefits of a good night’s sleep, including reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Breathe – Regularly practicing relaxation techniques – deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, etc. – can help reduce stress and anxiety. Taking a break and engaging in an activity you enjoy, like watching a favorite show or playing a game, can also help.
  • Take Basic Precautions – Take the recommended precautions to help stay healthy – wash your hands for 20 seconds, avoid touching your face and avoid contact with those who are sick. Not only do these things reduce your chances of infection, they can help you feel more in control.

What About Employees Who Need More Help?

Psychological effects of a pandemic are wide-ranging, and many need help beyond dealing with a little extra anxiety. This is where Espyr comes in. Through our industry-leading coaching, counseling and assistance programs, Espyr has been helping employees maintain good physical and mental health for 30 years. 

One such program is iResolve, a service that is included in every Espyr Employee Assistance Program (EAP). With iResolve, employees can access unlimited and immediate help as easy as making a phone call. There’s no appointment necessary, and employees will speak to one of our licensed professional counselors, coaches or clinicians.  

iResolve helps employees build resilience and develop coping strategies for dealing with uncertainty. Furthermore, it promotes connectedness and strengthening of support networks when social distancing measures are suggested.

Thanks to Espyr and iResolve, employers are able to provide employees with the help they need, whether due to coronavirus anxiety, other mental health issues or work-related problems. 

About Espyr

Espyr is a leader in behavioral health solutions, offering employers a variety of innovative products and services designed to maximize human and organizational potential. 

For more information on how Espyr can help your company provide for the mental health of your employees, call 888-570-3479 or click here. 

The Role of Mental Health in Professional Driver Talent Management

The transportation industry is one of many industries where employee mental health is becoming a growing concern.  Espyr’s Chief Clinical Officer, Norman Winegar, recently participated in an HR/Talent Management roundtable discussion at Accelerate Conference and Expo sponsored by Women in Trucking.  Mr. Winegar documented his discussion points in the byline article below.  While the roundtable was specific to professional drivers, Mr. Winegar’s observations and recommendations could apply to employee mental health in virtually any industry.

The Role of Mental Health in Talent Management

Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, ACSW, NCAC II, DOT Qualified SAP

Few people in the transportation industry would argue with the statement that professional driving can be a very unhealthy occupation.  Physically, the long hours sitting behind the wheel, lack of exercise (or for many OTR drivers little physical movement at all) and easy access to unhealthy food and drinks all take their toll on driver health.

Truck driver smoking and eating fast food

However, what often goes unnoticed is the condition of professional driver mental health.  The professional driver lifestyle – social isolation, the cumulative stress associated with safely handling an 80,000 pound vehicle through traffic, separation from family and the related issues that extended family separation creates – can lead to serious mental health conditions.  The severity of those mental health conditions is obvious in statistics like these:

  • 6 percent of truckers suffer from some level of depression, nine times higher than the national average.
  • Trucking is one of the top eight occupations for suicide according to the CDC.

Loneliness is a big challenge for drivers.  Some studies report that drivers say that loneliness is their main source of distress. Loneliness can lead to many unhealthy behaviors including premature death.  Referring to loneliness in general, the American Psychological Association has stated that loneliness is just as much of a public health hazard as obesity, it not greater.  Can there be an occupation that encounters more loneliness?

Those that need help most may not ask for it

What makes mental health conditions more challenging for employers – and more costly – is the fact that more than half of those with mental health issues won’t seek treatment. One of the primary reasons? Employees often stay quiet due to the stigma of mental health and concern that co-workers or supervisors will think poorly of them.

The transportation industry needs to focus more on the behavioral health aspects of driver well-being.  Here are three steps to take now:

  1. Remove the stigma of mental health. This starts at the top with C-level executives and the company culture. Drivers need to know that seeking care for mental health issues is not a sign of weakness.
  2. Educate managers on how to recognize the warning signs of mental health disorders and how to reach out to the affected person. Make sure that they know what to do when they encounter those warning signs with their drivers including connecting them with their Employee Assistance Program.
  3. Make mental well-being care easily accessible. Take advantage of your EAP and other wellness programs and ensure drivers know the confidential benefits that are available.

About Espyr

Espyr is a leader in mental health solutions, offering employers a variety of innovative products designed to maximize human and organizational potential. One of those solutions is Fit to Pass.  Fit to Pass is a coaching program that helps professional drivers achieve a healthier lifestyle.  The program intensifies for the 90 day period prior to a driver’s DOT physical exam, helping drivers pass their exam, retain their CDL and live longer, healthier lives.

To learn more about Fit to Pass or how Espyr’s employee well-being solutions can help you improve talent management in your organization, call us at 888-570-3479 or click here.

 

Mental health sign on workplace desk

30 Years of Change in Workplace Mental Health. What Do Employers Need to Be Doing Now?

October 2019 will mark Espyr’s 30th anniversary. Over those 30 years, we’ve witnessed significant changes in attitudes toward mental health, both by society at large and in the workplace.

We’ve evolved as well, changing from EAP Consultants, a company focused primarily on comprehensive Employee Assistance Programs, to Espyr, a leading provider of behavioral health solutions designed to maximize human and organizational potential.

Compared to our founding 30 years ago, people today are much more aware of the importance of mental health and more open to discussing personal mental health issues. Also, employers are increasingly including mental health benefits as part of their company’s wellness offerings.

Despite all the progress in mental health awareness and understanding however, the stigma of mental health persists. Some studies indicate mental health stigma is even worse now than in the past. Meanwhile, many employers, while they talk about the importance of employee mental health, have not taken the appropriate actions necessary to put mental health on equal footing with physical health.

To illustrate the point, let’s recap the state of mental health and, particularly, mental health in the workplace.

Awareness and Attitudes Toward Mental Health Have Changed

In many ways, people today have a better awareness and understanding of mental health and mental health disorders.

• According to a 2015 article in the Huffington Post, as recently as 1996, more than 50% of the US believed that depression was a sign of personal or emotional weakness. While this specific question has not been tracked over time, recent polls have asked whether seeking treatment for mental health issues is a sign of weakness. Less than 20% of respondents said treatment indicates weakness.

Another study in 2016 compared news stories concerning mental illness from 1995 to 2004, and from 2005 to 2014. Stories in which stigma or discrimination were mentioned as problems increased from 23% (1995-2004) to 28% (2005-2014).

• In a 1996 study, 54% of the US public attributed major depression to neurobiological causes; in 2006, this increased to 67%1. Similarly, the percentage of people endorsing the benefits of treatment by a physician for people with major depression went up from 78% (in 1996) to 91% (in 2006) 1.

• In another study of U.S. adults, only about 25% agreed that people are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness 2.

Yet, Mental Health Stigma Still Exists

Just over 25% of US adults – one in four – will suffer from a mental disorder in any given year, including anxiety, depression, impulse control disorder and substance abuse3.

Yet, only about 20% of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder4 or with a self-reported mental health condition5 saw a mental health provider in the previous year. One of the major barriers to seeking help? The embarrassment associated with accessing mental health services.

In an article in May 2019, SHRM (The Society for Human Resource Management) noted a telling indicator of mental health stigma from a 2019 study done by Unum and the Disability Management Employer Coalition. In this study, 70% of employees who missed work due to mental health issues did not inform their manager that this was the reason. In the same study, 61% felt that there’s a social stigma in the workplace toward colleagues with mental health issues.

In fact, according to several studies, mental health stigma may be actually increasing.

In 2010, Pescosolido and colleagues assessed the stigma around mental illness by comparing findings from a 2006 survey with a similar 1996 survey. They reported an increase in stigma during the 11-year period, adding, “Our most striking finding is that stigma among the American public appears to be surprisingly fixed, even in the face of anticipated advances in public knowledge.”

Previously, the same researchers had compared the public perception of mental illness in 1996 with findings from a similar survey in 1950. They reported that, despite an increased understanding of the causes of mental illness by 1996, stigma had increased. This finding was also reflected in the 1999 Surgeon General’s report on mental health: “Stigma, in some ways, intensified over the past 40 years, even though understanding improved.”

 

Mental health sign on workplace desk

Mental Health in the Workplace

In the battle to combat mental health issues, the workplace is ground zero. Workplace wellness programs can identify at-risk employees and connect them to the appropriate treatment. These programs also have the means to help employees manage stress. In addition, by addressing mental health issues in the workplace, employers can reduce health care costs for their businesses and employees.

The stakes are high. Depression alone costs the US economy an estimated $210 billion per year, and a little under half of the cost is related to lost productivity in the workplace, according to Darcy Gruttadaro, director of the Center for Workplace Mental Health at the American Psychiatric Association Foundation.

According to the CDC, mental health issues impact the workplace in multiple ways:

Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employees in terms of

• Job performance and productivity
• Engagement with one’s work
• Communication with coworkers
• Physical capability and daily functioning

Mental illnesses such as depression are associated with higher rates of disability and unemployment.

• Depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time, and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time6.
• Only 57% of employees who report moderate depression, and 40% of those who report severe depression, receive treatment7.

Mental Health and Physical Health are Connected

Complicating things further, mental health issues often occur along with physical health issues, a phenomenon called comorbidity. 29% of adults with a medical disorder have at least one mental health disorder. And 68% of adults with a mental health disorder have at least one physical health disorder.

Comorbidity makes medical diagnosis and treatment more complicated and more expensive. The costs for treating people with comorbid mental health disorders and physical conditions are two to three times higher than for those without co-occurring illnesses. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, more than 60% of the $210 billion annual cost of depression is actually going to treat medical conditions that often accompany mental health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease. In fact, it’s estimated that by combining medical and behavioral health care services, the United States could save $37.6 billion to $67.8 billion a year8.

What Leading Businesses are Doing

Unilever, American Express and Prudential are some of the many companies who are stepping up their efforts to improve employee well-being. These businesses have established comprehensive programs specifically designed to support employee mental health. Unilever also provides regular employee workshops on sleep, mindfulness and exercise, all of which have been linked to good mental health and psychological well-being.

General Electric has even taken steps to ensure employees know that the company views no difference between an employee seeking help for opioid addiction or an employee seeking help for cancer. Diana Han, chief medical officer at General Electric, noted that employees engaging in mental health programs are returning to work at a faster rate than unengaged workers. “Days away from work has really been a big win for employees and our business,” she said.

Kaiser Permanente has developed a Mental Health, Wellness and Resiliency Strategy to support company-wide awareness of mental health issues, and to create a stigma-free environment.

Deloitte announced its first Chief Well-Being Officer, Jen Fisher, in 2015. Ms. Fisher launched Deloitte’s Mental Health at Work campaign, which provides mental health training, information and educational opportunities. Deloitte’s employee resource initiatives promote well-being, provide content on how to mitigate stress and practice resilience in the workplace.

Johnson & Johnson has created many internal employee resource groups and programs around mental health. The J&J Mental Health Diplomats – headed by Craig Kramer, J&J’s first Mental Health Ambassador – has recruited over 1,000 employees in 32 countries, and trained more than 350 employees in Mental Health First Aid. The company extends mental health services to employees’ family members, too, ensuring positive well-being beyond the workplace.

Lendlease conducted a global health assessment of its employees in 2013 and found that 16% were at high risk of developing depression. In response, Lendlease introduced Well-Being Leave, an initiative that allowed employees to take one day off every quarter to attend to their health and well-being needs. In its global headquarters, the company also established The Wellness Hub, a place for preventative care, resources and activities focused on employee well-being.

Is It Enough?

Despite these notable examples, there is still work to be done. Just over half of employees surveyed in one recent study stated they either had no mental health programs offered through the workplace or didn’t know if any such programs were offered.

Furthermore, to be effective in maintaining employee mental health, businesses need to train managers to recognize the symptoms and warning signs of mental health conditions. By at least one measurement, employers are falling short in this regard. According to findings released in May 2019, only 25% of managers in the US have been trained in referring employees to mental health resources.

What Should Businesses Be Doing?

Most mental health experts will agree that there are three primary areas where employers should focus their mental health actions:

• Raising overall awareness of the importance of mental health and ending the attached stigma
• Changing the culture
• Improving access to mental health care

In an earlier Espyr blog (Removing the Stigma of Mental Health), we described a number of steps businesses should be taking to increase awareness, remove mental health stigma and increase access to care.

1. Your EAP is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal to combat mental health stigma and increase employee access to help. While this is certainly the case if you have a comprehensive EAP, it may not be true with a “free” or low-cost EAP that came bundled or embedded in a disability insurance product. These “EAP with purchase” products generally provide an EAP in name only; their business model only works if employee engagement is minimized, so they will be unlikely to serve any meaningful role in creating employee engagement.

2. Education and visibility are critically important. Your EAP should be very willing and adept in helping to build awareness and educate your employees. Initiatives we’ve seen work include:

• Hosting lunch-and-learns and guest speakers on behavioral health topics in the workplace
• Offering a monthly topical webinar to educate employees and normalize behavioral health issues
• Providing educational newsletters
• Providing special presentations to educate managers and supervisors about key mental health issues: mental health first aid, suicide prevention, PTSD awareness and substance abuse (including the opioid epidemic)

3. Promote awareness of the EAP and easy access to behavioral health treatment services at company benefit fairs.

4. Create a culture of acceptance, and make sure that it starts at the top. “Having full C-suite level support is important because you need to create a culture of safety,” says Don Mordecai, national leader for mental health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente. “Just going up to people saying, ‘This is okay’ is not going to make them feel safe in our stigmatized society. Workplace culture needs to be open to talking about mental health.” For example, when speaking to employees about medical benefits, include behavioral benefits and issues in the conversation, thereby normalizing behavioral health. Also, incorporate language in company policies to prevent stereotyping and eliminate improper labeling or bullying of employees with behavioral health challenges.

5. Develop a peer support program to train employees to assist distressed co-workers and encourage them to access provided professional behavioral health services.

Helping employees feel comfortable talking about mental health and developing a culture of support is a good start. But these steps are only worthwhile if employees have adequate access to care. Some suggestions we provided in our blog, Removing the Stigma of Mental Health, included:

1. Provide access to an interactive screening program, allowing employees to anonymously take a screening test for stress, depression and anxiety. Then, if they wish, enable them to speak with a behavioral health professional to understand their screening results and, if needed, connect them to the appropriate form of assistance – a therapist, psychiatrist, treatment program or self-help or support group. Espyr offers just such a behavioral health solution, called REALYZE™. REALYZE includes a screening program, as well as a review of the results with a professional, licensed mental health coach. Employees are then connected with the appropriate intervention resources, which could be the employer’s existing health plan. Espyr’s mental health coaches oversee the entire process to ensure more positive outcomes.

2. Larger companies should consider placing behavioral health clinicians on-site at workplaces to assess, refer and provide short-term counseling. A 2015 survey by the The National Association of Worksite Health Centers claims that 45% of all employers offer some sort of on-site health clinic. Adding a behavioral health clinician to these clinics is a natural wellness extension and further helps normalize the concept of mental health.

3. As behavioral health professionals, let your EAP partner help you draft policies that permit employees to leave work to keep behavioral health or EAP appointments. Structure benefits and policies knowing that many areas are underserved in terms of psychiatrists, so alternatives to psychiatry may be needed.

Espyr is Leading the Way

At Espyr, we’ve recognized the changes in mental health awareness, attitudes and our client’s needs over the past 30 years. In addition to providing one of the most comprehensive EAPs that employers can find anywhere, we’ve enhanced our product portfolio with new groundbreaking behavioral health solutions to help employers address the well-being needs of their employees.

• Products like Spotlight and REALYZE work to proactively target at-risk employees and deliver greater engagement, productivity and retention, while reducing healthcare expense.

• Our newest offering, Fit To Pass, provides coaching support and a customized plan to help professional drivers overcome barriers and challenges to achieving better health, especially when it comes to passing their DOT re-certification exams. This program is just as effective for law enforcement or any other occupations that require physical exams as a condition of employment.

To learn more about how Espyr can help your employees and your organization achieve their full potential, please call us at 888-570-3479.

 

Bibliography

1. (Pescosolido et al., 2010)
2. (Kobau, DiIorio, Chapman, & Delvecchio, 2010).
3. (Kessler, Chiu, Demler, & Walters, 2005)
4. (Wang et al., 2005)
5. (Hennessy et al., 2012)
6. Lerner D, Henke RM. What does research tell us about depression, job performance, and work productivity? J Occup Environ Med. 2008;50(4):401–410.
7. Dewa CS, Thompson AH, Jacobs P. The association of treatment of depressive episodes and work productivity. Can J Psychiatry. 2011; 56(12):743–750.
8. Melek SP, Norris DT, Paulus J, Matthews K, Weaver A, Davenport S. Potential Economic Impact of Integrated Medical-Behavioral Healthcare: Updated Projections for 2017. Milliman Research Report. Seattle, WA: Milliman, Inc.; 2018.

Workplace mental health issues

Celebrities Step Up To End The Stigma of Mental Health

In a recent National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) article, national director of strategic partnerships Katrina Gay told of her difficulties finding a celebrity to speak at a 2006 press event. She went through many weeks of attempts and rejection, finally securing Oscar and Emmy-winning actress Patty Duke. “Why are so many celebrities refusing to step forward,” Ms. Gay asked. “Because celebrities face the same stigma of mental health and discrimination anybody does,” answered Ms. Duke. “But I’ve been the president of the Screen Actors Guild and had a successful career,” she continued. “I can afford to take these risks.”

Fortunately, more celebrities are seeing the value in stepping forward and discussing their mental health issues. Not only are they not suffering the consequences their peers did years ago, they’re helping reduce the stigma of mental health for everyone.

Workplace mental health issues

These Athletes are Winners

As they are role models for so many young people, athletes are especially influential celebrities. And their teams are not just accepting mental health as an all-too-common illness, they are building treatment into everyday training and treatment regimens.

In the WNBA, for example, Liz Cambage of the Las Vegas Aces wrote an honest, detailed story for The Player’s Tribune outlining her struggles with anxiety and depression. In an age when social media commentary can be particularly cruel, most of the feedback on her story was supportive and full of praise.

An opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle outlined other athletes who have spoken honestly about their mental health struggles, including Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, Michael Phelps, Oscar De La Hoya and Terry Bradshaw. When these celebrities open up, it often turns into conversations that are mutually beneficial to players, coaches, management and fans, slowly tearing away the negative stigma often associated with mental health disorders.

Along with this shift in public opinion comes more treatment options. According to a report by Sam Amick of The Athletic, the NBA is amping up its mental health guidelines, providing players more access to mental health professionals, an action plan for mental health emergencies and ongoing discussions on how to handle these issues. The NFL just initiated their own mental health plan for the 2019-2020 season. MLB and MLS each have new mental health policies in place. And several WNBA teams provide access to mental health professionals.

Entertainers are Making a Difference, Too

Although actors, singers and musicians don’t have the support of a league, many entertainers have also come forward about their mental health struggles.

Kristen Bell, one of the stars of the series The Good Place, wrote an essay for Time’s Motto about the importance of being candid about her depression. “People in a similar situation need to realize they are not worthless,” Ms. Bell says, “and that they have something to offer.”

Pop sensation Miley Cyrus shared her story with ELLE. “I went through a time where I was really depressed,” she said. “Like, I locked myself in my room and my dad had to break my door down.” She has learned that every person can benefit from talking to somebody.

When Rolling Stone did a story on Bruce Springsteen, he shared that he was in treatment for many years from depression and thoughts of suicide. “After that article,” psychologist and author Deborah Serani recently told Forbes, “I had an influx of young men calling for psychotherapy. His disclosure helped. They thought, ‘if Springsteen was depressed and reached out for treatment, I can too.’”

Employers Can Also Be Mental Health Stars

For employers, mental health issues lead to reduced productivity and higher healthcare costs. So helping employees deal with their mental health issues is always a priority. Now, with celebrities breaking down the stigma of mental health, getting employees to step forward and seek help is getting a bit easier.

In an Espyr® article from last year, Removing the Stigma of Mental Health, we described some of the steps we’ve seen employers are taking that are further breaking down the stigma of mental health, as well as making it easier for employees to get treatment. Here are some highlights:

  1. Offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). 97% of large companies (over 5,000 employees), as well as an estimated 75-80% of mid sized and smaller companies have an EAP. It’s the most powerful weapon in your arsenal to combat mental health stigma and increase employee access to help. (Of course, not all EAPs are created equal. So-called “free” EAPs – those that come embedded in disability insurance products – are based on a model that only works if employee engagement is minimized, so they will be unlikely or unwilling to serve any meaningful role in generating employee engagement.)
  1. Create awareness and education programs. Critically important to the success of any program, your EAP should be very willing to help you build awareness and educate your employees, including:
  • Hosting lunch and learns in the workplace on behavioral health topics
  • Offering a monthly topical webinar for employers to use to educate their employees and normalize mental health issues
  • Providing educational newsletters
  1. Provide easy access to mental health services. Reduce as many barriers to treatment as possible. This could mean adding smartphone features, creating an easy-to-remember phone number or regularly reminding employees about available services.
  1. Create a culture of acceptance. For example, when speaking to employees about medical benefits, include mental health benefits and issues in the conversation, thereby normalizing mental health.
  1. Provide access to an interactive screening program. Allow employees to anonymously check for stress, depression and anxiety. Then, if they wish, they can dialogue with a behavioral health professional to understand their screening results.
  2. Develop a peer support program. Train employees to assist distressed employees and encourage them to access professional behavioral health services.
  3. Prioritize mental health treatment. Draft policies that permit employees to leave work to go to mental health or EAP appointments.

About Espyr

Espyr is a leader in mental health solutions, offering employers a variety of innovative products and services designed to maximize human and organizational potential. For more information on how Espyr can help your company provide for the mental health of your employees, call 888-570-3479 or click here.

 

Suffering Burnout? 8 Questions To Help You Know

Man suffering from burnoutEarlier this year, the World Health Organization officially recognized burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis.  Burnout has received more attention over the past few years amid a flurry of reports documenting increasing occurrences across various occupations.  

A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always.   In high stress occupations, burnout rates can soar even higher.   For instance, a Medscape Physician Lifestyle Survey in 2015 reported the rate of physician burnout at 46%.   But, burnout can affect anyone regardless of their occupation.

What is burnout?  

According to the WHO, doctors can diagnose someone with burnout if they meet the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

The diagnosis is limited to work environments, and shouldn’t be applied to other life situations.

Burnout is not just an emotional issue. A 2017 study in the journal PLoS One cited major health risks related to job burnout, including type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, high cholesterol and even death for those under the age of 45.

What causes burnout?

According to a 2018 report by Gallup, employee burnout has five main causes:

  1. Unreasonable time pressure. Employees who say they have enough time to do their work are 70% less likely to experience high burnout. Individuals who are not able to gain more time, such as paramedics and firefighters, are at a higher risk of burnout.
  2. Lack of communication and support from a manager. Manager support offers a psychological buffer against stress. Employees who feel strongly supported by their manager are 70% less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis.
  3. Lack of role clarity. Only 60% of workers know what is expected of them. When expectations are like moving targets, employees may become exhausted simply by trying to figure out what they are supposed to be doing.
  4. Unmanageable workload. When a workload feels unmanageable, even the most optimistic employees will feel hopeless. Feeling overwhelmed can quickly lead to burnout.
  5. Unfair treatment. Employees who feel they are treated unfairly at work are 2.3 times more likely to experience a high level of burnout. Unfair treatment may include things such as favoritism, unfair compensation, and mistreatment from a co-worker.

Think you may be burned out?

Almost everyone has times when we just feel mentally and physically tired or when we’re feeling down about our work.  Maybe we’re not as productive or feeling as creative as we know we can be.  Does that mean we’re suffering from burnout?  Maybe, but not necessarily.  We’ve put together a simple 8 question quiz to help you assess whether you may be suffering from burnout.  A caveat: this is an educational tool, not a clinical diagnosis.  Answer each question True or False.

 

1. I frequently feel out of energy or exhausted

 

2. My job seems to be more stressful than it used to be

 

3. I have difficulty concentrating on tasks at work

 

4. I’ve noticed or been told that I’m more irritable lately at work

 

5. I feel less creative at work than I used to feel

 

6. I get headaches or stomaches without any apparent cause

 

7. I don’t feel like I’m part of a team anymore at work, but I don’t care

 

8. Sometimes I just don’t care about the quality of my work performance or product anymore

 

If you answered True to 3 or more questions you may want to consider speaking to your supervisor or HR representative about the possibility of burnout.  If you answered True to more than 4 questions you should consider more formal assessments by consulting with your employer’s EAP or wellness program, or discussing your feelings with your physician. 

If you answered True to question 6 you should consider seeing your healthcare provider to rule out a purely physical condition versus possible stress-related cause for the issues. 

In our next blog posting we’ll talk more about the dangers of burnout and ways to beat it.

About Espyr

Espyr is a leading behavioral health company offering a portfolio of coaching, training and assistance products that span a continuum of care from restoring well-being to enhancing personal and organizational potential. To learn more about how Espyr can help you call us at 888-570-3479.

What Employers Need To Know To Prevent Workplace Violence

By now, less than a week later at the time of this writing, the deaths of 12 people from workplace violence in Virginia Beach, VA is no longer in the news.  Our society has become so inured from school shootings, workplace violence and other senseless acts of violence that we’re no longer shocked when they occur. We weary at the thought that it’s happened again and then we quickly move on.

In the Virginia Beach case, there was no indication that the shooter, a municipal employee who had resigned that day, was about to go on a killing rampage. His work record was satisfactory and he was “in good standing within his department” according to the City Manager. A co-worker indicated, “There was no warning whatsoever.”

The absence of warning signs is not typical. Half of mass workplace shooters had exhibited prior warning signs according to one recent study funded by the Justice Department.

Workplace violence is not uncommon

Workplace homicides are actually relatively rare. There were 458 workplace homicides in 2017 and 500 in 2016. The number has been mostly unchanged over the past decade. While workplace homicides are rare, workplace violence of any kind shows that occurrences are much more common. Each year, an average of nearly 2 million U.S. workers report having been a victim of violence at work, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Several states require employers to implement workplace violence prevention programs. For example, in 2017, California health care employers became regulated by the Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care rule. This rule requires a written workplace violence prevention plan, employee training, and state reporting among other things.

Steps to Prevent Workplace Violence

Whether required by law or not, preparing for any type of workplace violence is key to prevention. There is no one-size-fits-all-plan, but a recent article in MarketWatch by Meera Jagannathan outlines steps that experts recommend:

  • Have more than a zero-tolerance policy. Workplace violence prevention shouldn’t be limited to traditional zero-tolerance policies for threats, fights and sexual harassment, said Matthew Doherty, a senior vice president for threat and violence risk management at the security consulting firm Hillard Heintze. “This goes way beyond zero-tolerance policies,” said Doherty.
  • Know the warning signs. Educate employees on warning signs that could potentially lead to a workplace violence incident if left unchecked. Signs might include a marked change in behavior, sudden withdrawal, disgruntlement, being disruptive, aggressive and hostile behavior as well as exhibiting prolonged anger and being sad for a long period of time. What begins as sadness can lead to depression and suicide. Individuals who are contemplating suicide might think about taking their lives and the lives of others as well.
  • Create a relaxed, open and transparent work culture. Fostering a hostile, fearful environment to keep an eye out for potential perpetrators doesn’t help. Having employees memorizing a list of warning signs can create an atmosphere that erodes trust among coworkers. Simply encourage employees to speak up if they see any behavior that makes them worry about their own or someone else’s safety.
  • Don’t respond to reports in a punitive nature. While there may indeed be times you react with termination, suspension or involvement of law enforcement after learning about an incident, “that shouldn’t be your default reaction,” said Joel Dvoskin, a clinical and forensic psychologist at the University of Arizona who consults on workplace violence prevention. Employees will be less likely to speak up if they fear the company will overreact or punish the person they’re reporting, he added.

 

Crime scene tape around an incident of workplace violence

  • Establish mental-health support and policies, and be open about them. This might involve referring an employee to your company’s EAP or arranging for them to receive mental healthcare.  Alternatively, it could involve transitioning them to a role that better suits them, facilitating additional training or mediating a dispute.  Consider severance or outplacement assistance if the employee needs to be terminated.
  • Show compassion rather than fear or recrimination. Don’t ever disrespect the person or try to humiliate them, Dvoskin added. “You don’t help troubled people mainly to prevent gun violence — you help troubled people because they need help,” Dvoskin said. “That helps your organization in a lot of ways,” including productivity and morale.
  • Make people comfortable with reporting concerns. “If the organization’s response is reflexively punitive, then the stakes are high if I really need to be sure that I’m right,” Dvoskin said. “If the response is not punitive — if it’s thoughtful and measured and helpful — then so what if I’m wrong?” Let workers know they won’t be thrown under the bus for reporting misbehavior, ensure confidentiality and encourage them to be as accurate and detailed as possible in their report, Dvoskin said. “This is not a whistleblowing exercise. This is not to get your coworker or an outsider in trouble,” Doherty said. “It’s to ensure the safety of all involved.”
  • Don’t be afraid to speak even if you’re low on the totem pole.  You may be the first or only one to know about troubling behavior. If you don’t feel like you can tell your boss — or if it’s your boss’s behavior in question — try approaching corporate security, HR, an employee-relations representative or even local law enforcement. Many companies’ whistleblower tiplines for fraud and mismanagement can also be used to report safety concerns.
  • Assemble a threat-management team. This multidisciplinary, collaborative effort among a company’s security team, human resources and legal departments can also include senior leaders, local law enforcement, labor unions and experts from your EAP or other behavioral health partners. Espyr frequently serves on threat assessment teams and workplace safety teams for its clients. Threat assessment can help in figuring out whether someone is on the path to violence, as well as in uncovering whatever problems or desperation they might be facing.
  • Be aware of domestic violence issues. One in three workplace homicides among U.S. women between 2003 and 2008 was perpetrated by someone with a personal relationship to the employee, according to one 2012 study. majority of those were intimate partners. Encourage employees to bring their protective orders to the attention of the company and refer them to domestic-violence advocacy resources. If they’re reluctant to disclose to their boss a restraining order against a former partner, provide alternatives such as corporate security, HR or someone in their EAP.
  • Take a climate survey to gauge how employees feel about issues like workplace safety and fairness. Be transparent about the results even if they’re unflattering.

Know What Workplace Mental Health Services Are Available

Employers should inquire with their EAP or other behavioral health partners to find out what type of workplace violence services they provide. At Espyr, in addition to participating on threat assessment teams, we provide Workplace Violence Prevention training for employees and managers. We provide consultation with managers when there is concern with a specific employee or about policy development. For occupations such as law enforcement or security, we provide Fitness for Duty evaluations to determine if psychological issues are or would impair function or create a risk of violence. Finally, we conduct threat assessment and consultation services aimed at helping employers discharge a potentially volatile or at-risk employee and mitigate the possibility of workplace violence upon termination of employment.

If a workplace issue occurs, Espyr provides Critical Incident Response services including a 24/7 consultation with affected managers and employees; in-person debriefings with affected employees; 24/7 access for affected employees to behavioral health professionals for immediate support, triage and referral for in-person counseling if needed; and access to educational materials.

About Espyr

Espyr is a leading behavioral health company with a mission to help employees and organizations achieve their full potential. To learn more about our workplace mental health programs, including workplace violence services, call us at 888-570-3479.

It’s Time To Address Mental Health Stigma

If you’re an employer, the mental health of your employees may be costing you a lot more than you think. In fact, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, mental health disorders are the most costly medical condition, costing businesses about $200B per year in healthcare expenditures, plus an estimated $225B in lost productivity.

One in five adult Americans – 41 million people – will experience mental health issues in any given year. What makes mental health disorders more challenging for employers – and more costly – is the fact that more than half of those with mental health issues won’t seek treatment. Employees often stay quiet due to the stigma of mental illness and concern that co-workers or supervisors will think poorly of them. There is still a perception by many that it’s acceptable and even encouraged to stay home from work if you’re physically ill, but not okay for mental illness. Concerns that having a mental health issue can affect career advancement can be very real in some companies, especially in some industries such as healthcare, transportation, law enforcement and education.

Nick Otto reporting in EBN, quoted Pamela Greenberg, president and CEO of the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness. “The reason for these grim statistics is stigma,” Greenberg said, speaking at the World Health Care Congress recently. “People are afraid to say they have a behavioral health disorder and are scared to get treatment.”

 

What should an employer do?

Awareness and education through frank and open discussions and training is critical in removing mental health stigma, as we’ve reported previously in our blog on Removing the Stigma of Mental Health.

“Studies have shown that [more accepting] workplaces have happier employees with better productivity,” said Michelle Riba, a professor of psychiatry and the associate director of the University of Michigan Depression Center in an interview with Huffington Post.

Mr. Otto reports how General Electric took steps to ensure employees know that the company views no difference between an employee seeking help because of opioid addiction than if they had cancer.

Diana Han, chief medical officer at General Electric noted that employees engaging in mental health programs are returning to work at a faster rate than unengaged workers. “Days away from work has really been a big win for employees and our business,” she said.

 

It starts at the top

Employers need to get full support from their C-level leaders, added Don Mordecai, national leader for mental health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente.

“Having that kind of C-suite level support is important because you need to create a culture of safety,” he added. “Just going up to people saying, ‘This is ok’ is not going to make them feel safe in our stigmatized society. ”Workplace culture needs to be open to talking about mental health.”

 

Take a proactive, prevention oriented approach

Social stigma around mental health won’t go away overnight. Another way for employers to address employee mental health is to approach it proactively rather than waiting and hoping that employees will step forward and seek treatment. Espyr offers two innovative solutions that provide proactive and targeted outreach to employees with mental health issues.

Realyze™ uses an online behavioral health risk assessment to look across an employee population and identify issues like depression, anxiety, stress, PTSD and substance abuse. At-risk employees are connected with the appropriate licensed Espyr behavioral health professional, community health services, or the employer’s health plan if long term counseling is required.

An Espyr licensed health professional oversees the entire process, ensuring employees stay engaged, conducting follow-up assessments and increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes.

Realyze can complement existing employee assistance and wellness programs, increasing engagement in those programs, making them more effective and improving employers’ return on investment.

Another proactive, targeted solution is Spotlight®. Spotlight begins by putting employee healthcare claims and other third-party data through a proprietary algorithm, which identifies employees who are both at high risk of driving healthcare costs and most likely to engage in treatment. Those identified employees are connected with the appropriate Espyr licensed behavioral health professional. This one-two proactive approach allows employers to focus their healthcare spend where it can have the highest return, something not possible until now.

Spotlight also addresses comorbidity, the all-too-common occurrence of simultaneous mental and physical health issues. In fact, 29% of adults with a physical health issue have at least one mental health issue. When underlying mental health conditions are addressed, it’s easier to reduce the severity and duration of physical health conditions.

 

About Espyr

To learn more about Realyze, Spotlight or just to talk about how Espyr can help you improve the mental health of your organization, call 888-570-3479 or click here.