Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Service of Time Off to Reflect and Refresh

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Photo: halliecrawford.com

I have a hard time sitting still if I’m not at my computer. There’s always something that I feel should be done. This pressure runs in the family. I relax fully when I’m away from office or home and when I return from a break I lower the decibels of activity for a bit and feel refreshed. Surprise: The world hasn’t fallen apart.

This is why I was drawn to these two wise perspectives to taking time off. I think that the same advice applies if you’re the boss, if you’re looking for a job, if you’re a stay-at-home parent, if you’re retired—to everyone.

Father James Martin. Photo: en.wikipedia.org

“My novice director used to always say ‘You’re not a human doing, Jim. You’re a human being.’ Do you always need to be doing? Producing? Can you find time to rest, to be silent and to pray? Can you be a human being?” I read Father James Martin’s comment in a Facebook posting. A man who juggles multiple projects, he had taken off a few days after a hectic book tour. Among many other things, Father Martin is the author of “Jesus: A Pilgrimage;” “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything;” “My Life with the Saints,” and “Building a Bridge” and editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America.

Judy Schuster sent me an article about a tweet heard ‘round the world—well, if not that far, almost. When Stephanie M. Bucklin covered the story on Today a while back, it had already received over 10 thousand retweets.

The subject: Taking a day off for your mental health and admitting it. Bucklin quoted the web developer whose boss, on seeing her honest note to her team, praised her for admitting the real reason she wouldn’t be at the office. The tweet: “When the CEO responds to your out of office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision.100.”

Not everyone has a boss like this, wrote the Today contributor, so if you feel burned out, what to do? For ideas she interviewed Ken Yeager, the director of the stress, trauma and resilience program at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He says that on weekends you’re not recharging your batteries, you’re filling time, by “binging on Netflix or watching HGTV marathons.”

Photo: whattoexpect.com

He suggests “getting outside, visiting friends or cooking with your family members. Things like taking your kids to the zoo, seeing a show or concert or even just fixing that leaky faucet give you more energy back, too.”If “you still feel like you’re in a rut at work” he recommends you suggest to your boss “moving projects around, switching up tasks among team members and figuring out other ways for you to move, grow and do new things.”

Yeager’s other ideas: Attend a workshop, an industry conference, eat out, and choose a different road to work, “switch up your routine and re-energize you.”

Have you admitted to taking off a mental health day? Have you left work early to catch a baseball game, matinee or to shop? What techniques do you use to short-circuit ruts and to restore your energy and creativity if you can’t disappear for a day or two to dust off your mental health?

Photo: bryanuniversity.edu

Service of Quick and Easy Solutions for Depression: Intrusive Much?

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Photo: pano.com

Photo: pano.com

I appreciate companies that tackle a challenge in resourceful, efficient ways, but not at risk to safety, privacy and efficacy. According to Rachel Emma Silverman, “Companies are waking up to the costs of untreated mental illnesses like depression, which is linked to $44 billion a year in lost workplace productivity, according to the University of Michigan Depression Center. The center cites data suggesting that workers suffering from depression cost companies 27 lost work days a year.”

Her Wall Street Journal article “Tackling Workers’ Mental Health, One Text at a Time–Employers are turning to counseling services that can be accessed on smartphones,” inspired questions. We’re not talking about tips to treat a paper cut here. Plus, to receive what resembles a mental Band-aid an employee must be willing to give up privacy.

StressEmployee assistance programs [EAPs], where staff has access to free counseling on the phone, don’t seem to work, she reported. In contrast, Silverman wrote: “Some apps mine data about employees’ phone usage, or medical and pharmaceutical claims, to determine who might be in need of care. Others allow workers to text and video chat with therapists—in what are being called ‘telemental’ health services.”

The apps also collect data—telling employers how many look for help for stress, anxiety or depression–but according to Silverman, an employer doesn’t learn anything about individuals. However some in the industry worry that a lost or hacked phone puts an employee’s privacy at risk and others, who are happy to see something is being done, point out that the security of the privacy is unproven.

AnxietyAccording to Silverman, one app, Ginger.io, “alerts a health coach when a user hasn’t texted in a while or hasn’t left the house, potential signals of increased stress or anxiety.” She continued, it “gathers phone-activity data with users’ permission; the app does not monitor the content of messages or a phone’s specific location.” The human resources director at a company that offers both EAPs and mobile apps reports about the latter. It “feels like a more immediate solution for folks, because they are always on their phones anyway.”

Another corporation expects an ROI of over $2 million this year. Last year it spent $11.5 million on “behavioral health treatments” for its US employees wrote Silverman. It has signed them up at Castlight Health Inc. that “computes users’ health and pharmaceutical claims, as well as their search history within the app, to identify who might be at risk for a mental health condition and direct them to appropriate care.” Silverman described that the smartphone screen of staffers with something like chronic pain– associated with depression and anxiety–might be “Feeling overwhelmed?” A click leads to a list of questions about mood, treatment suggestions and an online therapy program.

Mental health mavens add, “While treatment by text is convenient, some users may still need to supplement it with in-office visits to a therapist.”

I’m all for mobile apps that share weather, sports scores, the shortest driving distance between here and there, movie reviews and the time to expect the next First Avenue bus and I don’t care if the world knows I’ve accessed them. With technology as fine tuned as it is, I can’t believe that the employer won’t know if someone seeks out help which might prevent them from getting a promotion.

  • And if an app determines someone has stayed at home for two days, might the reason not be the flu or a sick child–rather than an indication that you are paralyzed by depression?
  • Haven’t you researched a disease or condition a friend or relative mentions? How would the app know it’s not about you?
  • Are corporations blaming stress and anxiety on staff, who must be cured, instead of fixing the management style, unrealistic expectations or work conditions that may have caused much of the employee anxiety and blues in such numbers?
Photo: tinybuddah.com

Photo: tinybuddah.com

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