Worth Living Ambassador Ashley Wunsch

Hello, my name is Ashley Wunsch and I am a second-year student studying International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa. I always had a desire to change the world. A few years ago, I realized that changing the world isn’t only digging wells and building schools, but also taking care of yourself and your mental health, so I started to get involved with organizations surrounding mental health like Worth Living.

Changes

I hate changes. I don’t like to think of myself as someone who is structured, that things need to happen on a schedule type of person. Yet when I stop to think of it, I plan out each day on paper from the second I wake up to the second I go to bed. I get into routines and I like to keep them, it makes everything easier. I mean this is a good thing, I’m organized, but it’s also stressing me out. So the real question I need to ask myself- how do I deal with these changes?

It seems so weird to think of how much of a difference these changes are making, how it feels like I’m giving up a whole side of me, a piece that makes me complete. Yet if I don’t make this change, I’ll never know where I’ll go and into what I’ll progress. I can’t keep holding on to the past and how I used to feel because circumstances have changed and it isn’t healthy anymore. Yet I can’t lie, as much as it hurts to hold on to, it hurts more to let go of, even if I know it must be done. Besides, once the initial band-aid is ripped off, I will feel better and be able to do bigger and better things. After I learn to embrace the change, I’ll be able to open up more time to do other things and find my true self. Although it seems like a mess of emotions right now, I know in the end it will all be okay.

Yet despite knowing all will be fine, in the back of my mind all I can think of is how I’ve never been good with change. I remember in the twelfth grade during carnival clan feud (family feud) being nominated for the person who changed the most throughout high school and then being called as the number one answer. I remember being so confused, thinking I didn’t change. I remember thinking it was a bad thing, automatically assuming people thought I changed for the worse. But I later realized they did not mean it in that way, they meant I was super shy in the ninth grade and by grade twelve, I was more outgoing. They meant I changed in a ‘good way’ I told myself, but mostly that I grew, that I flourished. Changes aren’t always negative things. Sometimes they help us down the road to becoming our own beautiful unique selves. Although I can’t see how these current changes could help that doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be bad. Only time will tell and until then, I will grow from the situation and try to think of the positive outcomes of these changes and not the negative ones.


Scratchley Q Worth Living Director of Music & Official DJ


Worth Living Top 10 Countdown – Female DJ’s

Music is a great form of therapy. Music has the power to help express our emotions even when we might not have the exact words to do so. Music is there for us through the good, the bad, the struggles, the achievements and celebrations. Enjoy the Worth Living Top 10 Countdown! – Scratchley Q

10. What Would You Do For Love – NERVO

9. Girl Gang – Juicy M ft. Blimes Brixon

8. I Wish I Could – TOKiMONSTA ft. Selah Sue

7. Take Control – DJ Diamond Kutz

6. Ashes – Tigerlily

5. Poison – Audry Napoleon

4. Pochuvstvui – Nina Kraviz

3. Remember – Charlotte de Witte

2. Easy – Alison wonderland

1. Bamboozle – Hannah Wants


 Scratchley Q Worth Living Director of Music and Official DJ

Worth Living Top 10 Countdown – Promises

Music is a great form of therapy. Music has the power to help express our emotions even when we might not have the exact words to do so. Music is there for us through the good, the bad, the struggles, the achievements and celebrations. Enjoy the Worth Living Top 10 Countdown! – Scratchley Q

10. Promises – Nero

9.Promises, Promises – Incubus

8. No Promises – Shayne Ward

7. Promises – Def Leopard

6. Promise – Simple Plan

5. No Promises – Cheat Codes ft Demi Lovato

4. I Promise – Radiohead

3. Promise to Love Her – Blane Howard

2. The Promise – Chris Cornell

1. Promises – Calvin Harris ft. Sam Smith


Kim LaMontagne WL New England Lead

Kim shares her personal story of being a high functioning business woman balancing a career and family while fighting (and hiding) major depression, anxiety and persistent suicidal thoughts. By sharing her story, she helps individuals find the courage, power and strength to accept and love who they are and rise above the fear, stigma and shame of mental illness and talk openly about it. Kim fought her battle alone because she was afraid of stigma. Especially in the workplace. No one should suffer alone.

Mental Health and Stigma in the Workplace

Stigma refers to the negative internal attitudes and beliefs people hold toward something. Stigma can also be an amalgamation of ignorance, prejudice and discrimination. Discrimination is the external effect of stigma that results in the denial of individual their rights and social inclusion. Stigma and discrimination can be more detrimental to the individual than the actual mental illness. This is due to withdrawal of support from loved ones and colleagues in addition to shunning and exclusion. Numerous misconceptions still exist about mental illness which leads stigma and shame.

Stigma is disrespectful and is the number one barrier to treating mental health conditions.

Stigma and shame in the workplace play a large role in the under treatment of mental illness. Stigma plays a role in the decreased speed of employee outreach and treatment. The national average of organizations that offer an EAP is 75%, yet the usage rate is of EAP’s 3.5-5%. This is due in large part to stigma.

Stigma is also responsible for developing a strong tendency toward placing a stereotype on a person with mental illness, resulting in bulling, harassment, potential loss of employment and workplace intimidation. Stigma may also contribute to severe financial consequences and can be detrimental to an organization if left unchallenged.

Often, employees suffering from mental illness stay silent and suffer alone. Lack of disclosure of the mental illness from the employee to the employer limits the employer’s ability to accommodate the worker. This is a challenge that can lead to decreased concentration, productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, workplace accidents and mistakes.

Fear, shame and stigma are large barriers for employees to overcome to be able to take the first step to seek help.

In 2007, the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health in the United States, conducted a survey of HR Managers. In the survey, 8 in 10 respondents revealed that shame, stigma and fear of ramifications may be the cause of employees not seeking treatment for mental illness. A more recent study done by the Disability Management Employer Coalition suggests the degree of stigma associated with mental illness has not waned.

Society also plays large role in the negative perception of mental illness. The risk factors and symptoms of common illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure are widely known. On the contrary, there are gaps in lack of knowledge of the risk factors and symptoms associated with mental illness. Consequently, many myths, fears and stigma still exist around mental illness.

To combat this in the workplace, organizations can choose to engage in a mental health literacy program. A mental health literacy program provides the education to organizations that can aid in recognition and management of disorders associated with mental illness. Increased mental health literacy increases the dissemination of more accurate information and can be a catalyst to lessening the stigma around mental health in the workplace.

Commitment to employee wellness is a topic of organizational discussion that is gaining increased interest in research. Towers Watson 2013, global Staying @ Work survey found that “establishing a culture of health is a top priority for organizations” (Garrow, 2016). Research conducted by Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), shows organizational support to be an “important mediator in presenteeism” (Garrow, 2016). Specifically support from the top leadership that cascades throughout the culture of the organization.

Business leaders have a duty to implement a mental health strategy and consider mental health as an ongoing educational process. Leaders should feel empowered to make the changes required to build and sustain a mentally healthy workforce capable of increased productivity due to positive mental health.

It’s good for the bottom line…

Kim LaMontagne

Kim_lamon@yahoo.com

My next blog will discuss CEO’s Against Stigma (CAS).

CAS was a grant funded program implemented by NAMI MA. For my MBA capstone project, I analyzed the outcome of the grant funded anti-stigma campaign to determine the effectiveness of the program.

References:
Garrow, V. (2016) Presenteeism A review of current thinking, Institute for Employment Studies, Feb 2016, Report 507, Available at: http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/system/files/resources/files/507_0.pdf (Accessed: 1 February 2017).


Worth Living Ambassador Angela Cassivi Dsouza

Angela grew up in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia. She studied at St Mary’s University and at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. She now lives in Ontario with her husband and two kids, where they operate three locations of their music school, Avalon Music Academy.

This past Thursday was one of those days that just needed to end. I spent another full day at the hospital ER, but the good news is that there finally seems to be an explanation for why I’ve been short of breath since July.

Without going into all the gory details, a CT scan showed inflammation in my lungs caused by mucus buildup (sorry – I know that’s really bordering on too much information). So now I have stronger inhalers and a hefty dose of prednisone for the next five days. It’s only day three – but it seems to be helping a bit already. I certainly don’t feel perfect by any means. I’m feeling only cautiously optimistic.

But I have something more important to discuss, so I hope you’ll stay with me until the end. I have suffered serious anxiety for most of my life. It began when I was a young child, and has continued throughout my life. I can pinpoint the causes for most my bad attacks – but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Anxiety has caused me to miss out on things, and it has caused me to make bad decisions.

But it has NOT caused every problem I’ve ever had.

It did NOT cause the symptoms.

I’ve been suffering for almost three months.

The issue I want to draw attention to is this: Once you admit to almost anyone that you suffer anxiety, that is the only part of you they see. If you turn down an invitation, it’s social anxiety. If you experience tough times at work, you need to take a stress leave because you can’t handle it. If you are feeling sad, your anxiety is turning into depression and you need to be medicated. And the worst thing of all: if you are genuinely sick, it will be instantly written off by everyone as anxiety.

Now before everyone attacks, I am not discounting the fact that anxiety can be debilitating. Sometimes you do need to take a break or try medication. Panic attacks are very real.

But my illness is also real. It has a physical basis and was not brought on by anxiety. And for three months, no one believed that I couldn’t catch my breath. I was on the verge of accepting that my symptoms were imagined, until Thursday night when I did not get one minute of sleep due to my shortness of breath.

We talk a lot about removing the stigma associated with mental illness. We all claim that we don’t judge, and that we believe mental illness is as real and legitimate as any other illness. And yet, as I know first -hand, once you have anxiety, that is ALL you have. You apparently cannot have anxiety and a physical illness at the same time. If a person with anxiety gets sick, it is almost impossible to be taken seriously by the healthcare system, or even by friends.

And as I also know first -hand, physical symptoms that you are experiencing increase the anxiety – NOT the other way around.

This is unacceptable and makes me sad, angry, and very afraid. Anxiety must be kept hidden if you want fair treatment from our health care system. Anxiety must be hidden from friends if you want them to believe a word you say.

I am NOT my anxiety. I am a complete, whole person who deserves to be treated with the same respect as anyone else who seeks a medical diagnosis. I deserve to be listened to by friends.

Sadly, what I feel right now is isolated and completely alone. We are nowhere near a stigma-free society.

 


Worth Living Official DJ Scratchley Q

Worth Living Top 10 Countdown – Future House

Music is a great form of therapy. Music has the power to help express our emotions even when we might not have the exact words to do so. Music is there for us through the good, the bad, the struggles, the achievements and celebrations. Enjoy the Worth Living Top 10 Countdown!- Scratchley Q

10. Branches – Nora En Pure

9. Werk – CID

8. Go Ahead and Jump (Dareston Remix) – Miiilo & Leah Devine

7. Sweet Child of Mine – Sean Norvis & Kp London

6. Lost My Way – Max Nikitin

5. Don’t Know About Me – Marshall Star

4. Fine Day – Keanu Silva

3. Alive – Streex

2. Turn Off The Lights – Chirs Lake ft. Alexis Roberts

1. Desert – Dusty Rockers


Worth Living Ambassador and UK Lead Frankie Samah

Hi I’m Frankie and I’m from Wales, UK.  I am a psychology teacher and postgraduate education psychologist. I am a women’s right activist, working with women’s aid to raising awareness and to break the silence. I am a mental health advocate and writer. I believe in counteracting the stigma around mental health and we should begin with the ideology. Instagram- Frankie Samah www.frankiesamah.com

Dear Anxiety,

I never imagined that I would write this letter to you, I imagined us growing old together with years of tears and resentment.

I always felt like you controlled me as if you were stronger than me, you had the ability to change my mood in seconds, you were able to overpower feelings of joy and happiness and turn me into a person who couldn’t control their breathing or their thoughts.

You came with me everywhere; to the shops, to work, to my daughter’s school events, you were stuck to me pouring poison into my mind.

You first showed up a long time ago, I thought you were trying to protect me, I thought you were trying to stop me from trusting the wrong people, from being hurt by people I thought loved me, you taught me to be hyper-aware of everyone.  It started with a whisper, a gentle voice of self-loathing and gradually it became louder and louder.  I started to listen to you more until you had your wish that I was paranoid of everyone. You made me believe even my loved ones hated me, and you drowned out their voices of them telling me they loved me, that they cared.

I feared to be around everyone. I was afraid of what they were thinking of me. I was scared of people’s reactions to me, so I learnt to block out their voices.  I could become invisible in rooms full of people.  I was paranoid if I spoke to people I would say the wrong thing.  I would look back at each event, thinking what did I say, did I act in a way I might regret?  The questions went over and over in my mind. I could never relax with you around.

You made sure that I was alone, that it was just you and me.

I always tried to make your voice smaller, I’d overeat, I’d abuse myself, I tried medication and therapy and talking, but still, you made me paralysed with self-doubt and filled up all the space in my brain.  On the worse days, I couldn’t read a book; I couldn’t concentrate at work, I couldn’t laugh for fear. When I fell in love, this was something new for you; you had more ammunition to attack me, I wasn’t good enough for him, I wasn’t pretty enough, he was going to leave.

I stopped allowing myself to dream in case you destroyed them too.

People were asking- where is the person you use to be?  The truth was I didn’t even know, I suppose I was now scared to be me.

It was only when I couldn’t take anymore, I was left with a choice, it was either you or me.  So, I choose me. I found a voice, talking about you through words, communicating about how much room you consumed in my mind, about what we have been through together, I gave you the power to make you believe I was worthless, that I was unlovable, now I was going to take it back.

Slowly but surely I turned that fear into faith, belief in myself.  I stopped worrying hours of my life away.  I stopped being afraid of tomorrow or what disaster could happen, tormenting myself won’t prevent the bad things from happening, it’s only going to stop me from enjoying the good.

I am learning every day that I like me, yes I make mistakes, I am not perfect, but I am human, and I am worthy of kindness, and I love with my whole heart.

So, pack your bags and leave because you were part of my past but you’re not invited to my future.

You don’t get to define me anymore.

Love Frankie

 

 

 

 

Sent from my iPhone

 

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Worth Living Ambassador Beth Allen

Beth Allen is a Mental Health Advocate, and an active video blogger who aims to be informative, fun and truthful whilst showing life with Mental Illness. Having suffered in silence for 10 years with GAD, Emetophobia, Anorexia and Depression, Beth is 100% committed to showing the world that it’s okay to not be okay.

New Horizons – first holiday since recovery!

Hello there, my friends! How are you this week? For this video I want to take you on a journey – this is my first holiday since starting my recovery in early March this year (2018).

 


Worth Living Ambassador Tylia Flores

Tylia Flores is a 23-year-old born with cerebral palsy. Although her condition has affected her mobility, it has never affected her will and determination to make a difference in the world. Through her many life challenges and obstacles, she discovered her passion for writing. Tylia’s goal in life is to share her stories with the world. In doing so, she hopes to help others with disabilities realize that they too have the potential to make their dreams come true.

How Writing Got Me Out of a Dark Place

I was 15 years old when my life changed forever. I was a freshman in high school and I didn’t know the direction I was going to go in life like any 15-year-old girl would be going through at that age.

The only difference with me is that I have other obstacles and challenges that make me unique. I was born with spastic cerebral palsy (CP) for short, but I had never allowed my disability to stop me from living an average life as a human being.

As a teenager, I was involved in many different sports like baseball and basketball and loved to travel the world as a kid, and I still do to this very day. I was always an overachiever in school always got straight A’s and B’s no matter what.

But once I got to high school, I had started having difficulty with my grades. I lost my childhood friend to a brain tumor. I was very lost and had a dark cloud over the head all the time and often blamed myself for my best friend’s cancer and it was hard for me to deal with.

I was lost in my battle with depression, but I didn’t go to counseling or anything like that. I just kept it silent as I was going through grief and pain and I didn’t say a thing about it to anyone. I faced it alone and every day I wondered where my life was going to in the next couple of years and how was I going to cope with everything going through at the time. In my freshman year, I barely passed any of my classes that year.

So, the summer comes along, and I was still struggling with depression. I was still lost in the clouds and then I went back to school. I started off on the wrong foot so my parents decided to home school me. I started to see that people that I thought were my friends weren’t. My boyfriend at the time dumped me on Valentine’s Day, so I found myself to be alone, and I couldn’t escape it. Until one day I was at the Branes and Noble store with my dad drinking a Starbucks coffee and I started to imagine myself signing books of my own. Then I went home and started to write the sentence of my book, James Ticking Time Bomb and got it published at age 16. I got my grades up and I was able to get out the dark place. I completed high school with a 3.7 GPA and now I’m in college. I advocate for cerebral palsy and mental illness since awareness needs to be brought to all things. I also thank writing for changing my life and giving me a purpose.

You can follow Tylia on her social media

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Stompingoncpwithtylia/

Twitter https://twitter.com/stompingoncp1

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/stomping_on_cp_with_tylia/


Worth Living Ambassador & New England Lead Kim LaMontagne


I share my personal story of being a high functioning business woman balancing a career and family while fighting (and hiding) major depression, anxiety and persistent suicidal thoughts. By sharing my story, I help individuals find the courage, power and strength to accept and love who they are and rise above the fear, stigma and shame of mental illness and talk openly about it. I fought my battle alone because I was afraid of stigma. Especially in the workplace. No one should suffer alone.

Unaddressed Mental Health and Presenteeism in the Workplace: What Does Presenteeism Mean and How is it Affecting Your Bottom Line?

More than 14 million U.S. workers fall within the category and diagnostic criteria for substance dependence (Jacobson & Sacco, 2012) and millions more suffer from mental illness. Substance abuse, mental illness, and stigma in the workplace cost employers millions in “lost productivity, measured by increased absenteeism, workplace accidents and healthcare costs” (Jacobson & Sacco, 2012).

Additionally, stigma and mental illness negatively impacts other employees affecting workplace morale, productivity and outcomes.
Research reveals that mental health disorders, particularly depression, have a “staggering impact on business productivity in America, greater than physical disorders” (Harder et.al, 2014). This phenomenon has become more common in the workplace but is not well understood or supported. Untreated mental health is a public health concern.

In today’s complex and competitive business market, a company’s most important asset is human resources. “Efficient business relies on the health of the individual worker” (Ajunwa, et. al., 2016). A physically and mentally healthy worker means fewer sick days, decrease in short and long-term disability claims, more productivity and engagement, and less healthcare cost for the company. A mentally healthy workforce is better for the bottom line.

Organizational loss associated with mental health in the workplace is multipronged and includes “absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover” (Harder, et. al., 2014). Absenteeism accounts for time off from work with no expectation of work responsibility. Among valid reasons for absenteeism, mental health conditions account for a 62.2% of days out of office and accounts for an estimated 7% of global payroll across organizations “which is more than any other disorder” (Harder, et.al., 2014). Although lost productivity and costs associated with absenteeism are staggering, an even costlier issue in the workplace is presenteeism.

Presenteeism is known as “the problem of workers being on the job but, because of illness or other medical conditions, not fully functioning” (Hemp, 2004). Presenteeism can cut individual productivity by one-third and can be even more costly than its counterpart absenteeism. Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism isn’t always apparent. It is simple to process the concept of absenteeism. When an employee is excused from work, productivity is not expected because they are not present. When presenteeism is introduced in the workplace, you often can’t tell “when—or how much—illness or a medical condition hinders someone’s performance” (Hemp, 2004). Presenteeism represents when the worker is there but is not being productive due to outside circumstances. Also known as the working wounded. In the United States alone, the costs associated with presenteeism are $180 billion per year compared to the $118 billion costs related to absenteeism” (Ammendola, et. al., 2016).

The cost and burden of mental health disorders is consistently found to supersede physical disorders when comparing direct (medical / pharmaceutical) and indirect (absenteeism / presenteeism) costs of each disorder. Mental health episodes requiring an employee to open a disability claim are typically longer than for other types of disorders (67 days vs. 33.8 days) (Harder, et. al., 2014). The average major depressive episode lasts for 26 weeks making it the “single leading cause of disability in the workplace” (Harder, et. al., 2014).

Although diagnoses such heart disease, diabetes, or cancer require a company to pay higher direct health care costs, illnesses such as depression and anxiety have lower direct costs. Unfortunately, they usually account for increased loss in productivity because “they are so prevalent, they so often go untreated and they typically occur during peak working years” (Hemp, 2014).

To build a healthier workplace, there must be a team approach to employee health and wellness. The adage of leave your problems at the door is a thing of the past. Since most employees experience major disruptive issues affecting their on the job performance, there must be a comprehensive top down organizational strategy to ensure proper management of employee health to increase retention and decrease healthcare costs. The role of the CEO and leadership within an organization is critical to supporting the success and implementation of a program to support the well-being of employees. When mental health is valued by leaders, appropriate resources become increasingly more available, employees are educated about the resources, usage increase and there is a substantial benefit to the organization and more importantly the bottom line.

Commitment to employee wellness is a topic of organizational discussion that is gaining increased interest in research. Research conducted by Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) shows organizational support to be an “important mediator in
presenteeism” (Garrow, 2016). Specifically, support from the top leadership that cascades throughout the culture of the organization. Business leaders have a duty to help reduce stigma in the workplace, develop a mental health strategy, and consider mental health as an ongoing educational process. This can be accomplished by investing in targeted actions that promote mental health such as workshops, employee education, frontline leader training in mental and collaboration with NAMI just to name a few. Leaders must feel empowered to make the changes required to build and sustain a mentally healthy workforce capable of increased productivity due to positive mental health. It’s good for the bottom line.

References:
Ajunwa, I., Crawford, K. and Ford, J. (2016) Health and Big Data: An Ethical Framework for Health Information Collection by Corporate Wellness Programs, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine

Ammendola, C, Côté, P, Cancelliere, C, Cassidy, J, Hartvigsen, J, Boyle, E, Soklaridis, S, Stern, P, & Amick III, B., 2016, ‘Healthy and productive workers: using intervention mapping to design a workplace health promotion and wellness program to improve presenteeism’, BMC Public Health, 16, pp. 1-18.

Garrow, V. (2016) Presenteeism A review of current thinking, Institute for Employment Studies, Feb 2016, Report 507.
Harder, H, Wagner, S, Rash, J, 2014, Mental Illness in the Workplace.

Harder, H.G., Wagner, S.L., Rash, J.A., Mental Illness in the Workplace: Psychological Disability Management

Hemp, P. (2004) Presenteeism: At Work—But out of it, Harvard Business Review, Available at: https://hbr.org/2004/10/presenteeism-at-work-but-out-of-it.