Keith is a regular contributor to Bring Change 2 Mind’s blog, and to the Good Men Project. If you are interested in working with Keith feel free to reach out. Contact WL if you want to be a Guest Blogger.
Worth Living Ambassador Shaelynn Baxter
Hello, my name is Shaelynn Baxter and I’m currently a student attending the Social Services Program at the Nova Scotia Community College in Sydney, Nova Scotia. However, I will further my career after this program to obtain a Social Work Degree. I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression and that’s how I began to dedicate my time to helping others in need. Mental Health has had a huge impact on my life and I’m happy to be able to finally start sharing my story.
Shining Light into the Darkness
It’s the days where getting out of bed is too hard. It’s the days when you’re looking in the mirror asking yourself “what’s wrong with me?”, “why am I the one who has to deal with this?”, or “why aren’t I skinny or pretty enough?” It’s the days where you feel like giving up because fighting through isn’t worth it. Those days are when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom and don’t know how to start over again. I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. There were many days where I thought if I ended it that day, then the pain and suffering would end as well, but what I realized was that by me killing myself, I’d just be passing the pain onto someone else. What I actually needed was someone who was willing to listen, I didn’t need a response, I just needed to know they were listening.
I was only 12 years old when I first got diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. Being told you had mental illness at such a young age was hard to comprehend and understand, that there was a reason why you felt the way you felt. I always felt hopeless about life and I would always feel like I was a waste of space and wasn’t worthy to be alive. I started to want to die because that seemed a lot easier than being alive and suffering. Living with both mental illnesses didn’t bother me too bad until I went to High School. As the pressure of having “perfect” grades intensified, I felt myself breaking down and couldn’t get myself out of the darkness I was pushing myself into. I would hide in bathrooms or leave school early because I felt “sick”, holding back tears so my friends or family. I could never tell how overwhelmed I really felt. Getting out of bed everyday was becoming a hassle and most of the time, I would skip school, just so I didn’t have to deal with it. I started to become a very angry person; mad at the world, mad at everyone around me and most of all, mad at myself. I would consistently ask myself why everyone else seemed so happy and had such perfect lives, and why couldn’t I be like them?
For the next five years after I graduated high school, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to college or university to further a career, I wasn’t ready to be put under that much stress again, so I decided to work in retail until I felt I was ready to go back and further my education. Working in retail had its ups and downs, customers who were verbally abusive definitely put a damper on my mental health, which caused more relapses and mental breakdowns.
Eventually in 2017, I got accepted into the Social Services Program at NSCC Marconi Campus. I was still very negative and angry at the world when I first went into the program but after a few months and with the positivity, support, and help from my professors in the program, I began to shine. I started to come out of the darkness I was in and began to come to the realization that I was meant to help others in need and help them through tough times in their lives. I know what it’s like to face the disease of mental illness every single day and if I can help make one person’s life a little bit easier, it’s worth it.
There has been a countless number of times that I would cry myself to sleep because I’d start to convince myself that I had no worth and there was no point of me being alive. I would over-analyze text messages and phone calls from friends or family, and I would believe my mind telling me that they didn’t like me, that they wanted to see me fail, or they didn’t care if I was alive or dead. The thoughts became so overwhelming that I just feel like I was drowning and can’t do anything about it. I would purposely scratch at my skin, sometimes making it bleed, because that was my comfort zone to calm myself down if I was having an anxiety attack or depressive episode. Overcoming anxiety is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and even though I’m still not there yet completely, I’ve made progress since the age of 12. I can go into public areas without thinking people are staring or laughing at me, I can call and make my own appointments, and I reach out for help when I need it the most. My anxiety disorder still hangs over me but it no longer controls me and that in itself is a massive accomplishment. I’ve come a long way with both my anxiety and depression, and for that, I will always be proud of who I’ve become.
Of course, I still have bad days, weeks, even months. Days where all I feel is emptiness and the thought of being happy is never going to happen, but I’m definitely stronger than I was a few years ago and I’ll be even stronger in the years to come. I’m not letting my illnesses win this battle. If you don’t have a mental illness, it’s hard to understand them and you may think it’s easier to leave that person in the dust instead of just being there but it’s not. All that person needs is for you to be there, talk to them, listen to them and love them. I’ve lost a lot of important people in my life because of my illnesses, some I thought would be in my life forever and I only have one thing to say to those people, thank you for leaving because you’ve shown me that I didn’t need you to be strong and you’ve also shown me the people that were willing to stay in my life despite what was going on. To the people who have stayed during my bad days, thank you. I am so lucky to have the friends and family I have, the ones who pick me up when I’m down and support me with everything I do. I wouldn’t be here or the person I am today if it wasn’t for all of you. You’re never alone in your journey, life isn’t easy but it’s worth living.
Worth Living Ambassador Taylor Bickerton
My name is Taylor Bickerton, I am nineteen years old and I am attending Seneca
College-Markham Campus for their three-year Business-Administration Marketing advanced
diploma program. I am strongly passionate about mental health and I strive to raise awareness
about the importance of it. I believe mental illnesses should not be stigmatized and pushed to
the side. This is why I decided that it was important and crucial to me to get involved with
Four Goals to Help Achieve Success in a New School
My school journey has been a roller coaster ride, with many ups and downs. I performed
well in high school and pushed myself to achieve high marks, as well as being involved in
several clubs, committees, and taking the time to volunteer and attend events in communities:
locally, nationally, and even on a global scale. I did this while knowing that I was living with
anxiety and depression.
Things took a turn when I went off to Carleton University for their Global and
International Studies program in September 2017. It was a completely new environment. I did
not know anyone and my immediate family lives back in Nova Scotia. Yes, I made friends and I
met my boyfriend there. However, there as a lot of negatives: bad residence experience, not
enjoying my program, worrying all the time, not getting the grades I wanted, and burning
myself out completely. I attempted to go back, but in a different program in September 2018. I
could not survive one day of class and stepping foot onto campus made me uncomfortable. I
was out of school for a few months, worked full time and am started back up this month on
Going to a new school is a huge change for me. I decided to set four goals for myself to help
keep myself on track and to be as mentally well as I can.
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Something that I have adjusted to doing before heading to work the next morning is
laying out everything that I need. I make sure my clothes are washed, my outfit is laid
out, I make my lunch and put my snack in my bag, make sure my electronic devices are
charged, and more. This way I can go to bed with a clear mind knowing that the most
important things I need to do are complete. I plan on continuing this with going to
school full time and in my workplace, part time.
2. Use a Daily Planner
My brain runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is always thinking,
thinking, and worrying constantly. It is beneficial for me to not keep things bottled up
and to make my mind clear. Having a planner and using it religiously will help keep my
anxiety at peace and will significantly increase my time management skills. I also have a
desk calendar and a calendar for my basement apartment kitchen.
3. Healthy Eating = Happy Belly + Mind
Healthy eating is something I could definitely improve on, especially while going to
school full time. The temptation of getting fast food or making ramen noodles is there,
and I know it always will be. However, while I was in university, even with an all access
meal plan, I should have eaten much better. I was not putting enough nutrition and
calories in my body. I know now that it had a negative effect on my academic
performance. I have to remind myself to eat properly every single day, especially since I
am taking Zoloft. A goal of mine is to meal prep and to plan out my breakfast, lunches,
and suppers. I am hoping that with these changes, that I will in fact have a happy belly
4. Use Campus Resources to My Fullest Potential
It took me a long time to reach out for help while attending Carleton. It was not until
December 2017, that I visited the Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities. I
completed an assessment for my mental health, and started going to counselling. I am
now not afraid of asking for help and support when needed. I know that Seneca is very
accommodating and inclusive. It is a goal of mine to reach out and visit their counselling
services. However, there are plenty more resources that are beneficial and would make
my experience extraordinary: getting involved in clubs and societies, volunteering,
attending study sessions, and reaching out to a tutor if necessary.
These are just four important goals that I have in mind for my fresh start and there are plenty
more. I have to remind myself that the past is the past. I learned from my experiences and I will
only become a stronger human being. I am excited, but scared. I have to remind myself that I am worthy, I am intelligent, and I can do this.
So here is to 2019, my new program and school, and whatever else is yet to come.
Worth Living Ambassador 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
Thriving After Major Depression
New research released in 2018, suggests epidemiological literature indicates that the orthodox view of depression as being chronic, recurrent, and lifelong is hugely overstated. Depression is a serious medical illness that negatively affects how we feel. However, too much emphasis is placed on it being a lifetime illness, and new research suggests we can recover and thrive after depression.
More and more people with mental health conditions are now told that their prognosis is gloomy. This is somewhat ironic that psychopathology research spreads epidemiological gloom when in fact biographies of leading researchers reveal trajectories that go from severe disorder to productive living.
Elyn Saks tells us in her book The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey through Madness- her story of hearing voices as a teenager and harming herself repeatedly to becoming an accomplished lawyer and now a pioneering psychiatrist in the area of mental health law.
Kay Redfield Jamison’s book An Unquiet Mind tells us of her story of episodes of bipolar disorder to gaining control over her illness and now is a leading researcher in the field of bipolar disorder.
Marsha Linehan, who is a researcher in borderline-personality-disorder research, revealed how she had psychiatric hospitalization for two years in her youth.
There is a somewhat gloomy outlook predominantly for people with a diagnosis of depression which is noted over and over again especially in journals that are aimed at practitioners. Here are a few examples-
- “Depression is a chronic, recurrent, and often familial illness that frequently first occurs in childhood or adolescence.” (Brent and Birmaher, 2002, p. 667, in the New England Journal of Medicine).
- “Depression is a chronic and recurrent condition, with each experienced depressive episode increasing the risk of future episodes (Solomon et al., 2000).” (Hitchcock et al., 2016, p. 92, in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry).
- “During the last decade, researchers and clinicians have become increasingly aware that major depression, which was once thought to consist of discrete episodes of illness followed by full recovery, is both chronic and recurrent in many patients.” (Keller, 1994, p. 205, in European Neuropharmacology).
According to the World Health Organisation, depression is now the foremost source of disability worldwide.
However, there is hope. A team of psychologists led by Jonathan Rottenberg at the University of South Florida proposed there is a significant subset of people who recover and thrive after depression, yet research into this area is rare. Therefore, they propose a definition for “high functioning after depression” (HFAD) arguing that the advice given to people with depression need not be so gloomy, and layout key areas for future research.
Rottenberg cites 3 studies and they find that an average of 40-50% of people who experience an episode of depression don’t go on to suffer another episode.
It may be somewhat irresponsible for me to suggest everyone who has had a diagnosis of depression can never experience it again, that’s not what I am saying. It’s more with proper care, well-being, and treatment, people with depression can experience a full life. A further reason High Functioning After Depression needs to be further researched is that it is part of the truth, which practitioners, patients, public, and everyone are owed.
For me, it opens new questions to be explored- Are people who are HFAD more likely to have sought help? If so, what type of support did they receive? Are there more HFAD’s in a specific region/country/area? (One of the studies cited was conducted in Sweden- is depression better treated there?) Can we adopt these strategies? Does depression itself play a role in triggering the long-term improvement seen in HFAD? (Something similar has been proposed for trauma). Can we apply what is learnt about HFAD to enhance clinical interventions?
The one thing I am sure of is the more people who speak out about their own experience with mental health, the stigma attached to it will slowly disappear. A growing number of celebrities testify to the possibility of renewal after psychopathology, to name a few- Lady Gaga, my daughter’s hero- Dwayne Johnson, Adele, Miley Cyrus, and Demi Lovato.
I cannot tell you the number of people who have told me they don’t want to go to the doctor’s and be labelled with ‘depression’, as it would affect their future or other just as outdated views. If we have correct medical care and we look after ourselves, there is a high chance that depression won’t be recurring. Far from signalling a lifetime prison sentence, the onset of depression can herald a delimited period of suffering, after which we can emerge as highly functioning, successful members of the community, who are loved and are love. Let’s start 2019 with a new narrative.
If you are feeling that you may be experiencing mental health issues, please consult medical care.
Worth Living Ambassador Jessie Fawcett
Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m a student attending Ryerson University to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I am dedicated to being able to work in a juvenile detention centre in order to help aid youths who are struggling with their own lives. Mental health has always had a huge impact on my life and I’m finally starting to be able to share my story in hopes to help others who are also struggling with the same issues as well as shedding some light onto mental health
The Gray Area of Mental Illness
There is such a conflicting mindset when having mental illness. There are times when you want to be healthy and free, but there are also times when you either just want to give in to your illness and do what it tells you or to just let it defeat you. Not only does having mental illness create a vicious cycle of questioning your own sanity but when adding thoughts that question whether or not you can be you without it just creates more emotional anguish.
I know that, for myself, I often feel that if I recover completely that I will no longer be the person that I have always been. I feel like I will be losing such a crucial part of my persona that I will be unrecognizable and that my past self would be erased. In many ways, this would be a beneficial outcome due to the detrimental impacts that my illnesses have had on me. However, they have also created connections for me and gave me strength in their development. Without my illnesses I would not be friends with many people, I would not see things with the same perspective, and I would most likely not be taking the same career path as I am now. I would be a different person altogether. Now I am in no way saying that I do not wish for recovery, but what I am saying is that I am scared of achieving it. Nobody wants to be sick, but many of us are not particularly fond of change either.
I fulfill many types of activities now more than ever before. One illness that I am slowly, but surely, overcoming is generalized anxiety. I can talk to new people without breaking into a cold sweat, I can push myself to make phone calls to book appointments, I can state what is on my mind to others when I am distraught, I reach out for help when I know that I need it. These are some things that I could have never done before. Even though this disorder still haunts me, it no longer controls me and that is something of which I will always be proud. Yes, of course I still struggle with it, but in light of the fact that it would drive me to skip school or have constant panic attacks. I have come a very long way. This is also extremely physically beneficial as well since panic attacks are so damaging to the body causing extra stress to the nervous system. I would have intense anxiety throughout the day which caused me to develop blotches all over my chest and neck (looking like a rash). I hardly ever experience them now for which I am grateful. When in anxiety-provoking situations, I would scratch at my neck and hands to the point where I would bleed and burst blood vessels. I rarely scratch myself anymore. Generalized anxiety is definitely a disorder that I wish to completely recover from so I can move on with my life and decrease the number of unnecessary barriers and stressors that I have.
Depression on the other hand is a completely different story. Even though I have made substantial progress with this disorder, it still continues to run my life. It continuously makes harmful decisions for myself, decisions that I know are wrong but that I continue to pursue anyway because the thoughts are so loud. It makes me push people away, it makes me hate myself, it makes me cry for so long and so hard that my eyes are nearly swollen shut the next day. It makes me tear myself to shreds, it shatters my spirit like glass, it devastates me, it makes me a burden on others, it makes me selfish, it devours me and yet, for some reason I cannot picture myself having a future without it. It is not that I do not strive for happiness and recovery in this domain, it is simply that it has been controlling me for so long that I feel that I will not be me without it.
I spend countless nights crying myself to sleep because of how much I believe that I have no worth. I agonize over actions and words that I cannot take back. I fantasize about what it would be like to disappear. I imagine what others would think or feel if I was gone. My thoughts are so compelling that it terrifies me every time I have them. It is not simply the essence of wanting recovery, anyone can want something. It is about whether or not a person has what it takes to use their will power in order to change what needs to be changed. A person requires extreme self-control and dedication in order to attain recovery and sufficient change. They cannot only want it, they need to accomplish it. So, the question is; do I want recovery? Yes. Do I have what it takes to change? Yes. Do I want to change? I am unsure. I know that is not the correct answer, but it is the honest one. Like I said, change is difficult and not particularly pleasant. However, in order to achieve recovery, it is mandatory to act upon it.
It is not something that will happen overnight. I will need those closest to me to continue to have patience and encouragement in order for me to see this through. I do not want to recovery just for myself, I want to recover for those I surround myself with. I do not wish to continue being a burden on others. I want to prove to myself that I can survive this even when I don’t see the point of it. That is where the gray area comes in. I want to be free, but I do not wish to lose part of myself even if it means it will destroy me.
Keith Anderson, Founder of Worth Living
I am a lawyer who had depression. I first went public with my depression 10 years ago with an article in the National Post newspaper, called How I Returned to a Life Worth Living. Since then, I have spoken at national mental health conferences, legal conferences, universities, and the Cape Breton Regional Police Service for their mental health training. I have also served on several Boards of Directors and Committees for mental health groups. One huge step in my recovery was my time volunteering with BringChange2Mind, a mental health advocacy group co-founded by Glenn Close. A few years ago, I put all my work under the brand Worth Living Mental Health, which is now active in several countries.
2019 – We Own This Year!
This tends to be the time when we reflect on the past year and look forward to a new year. I think we ought to do that throughout the year, but for the sake of convention, let’s start today. It is the first day of new dreams and goals.
On a personal note, last year was certainly one to remember, full of wonderful people and exciting times. It`s the people I get to meet and work with, in person and online, who made the year one of joy. I will often smile and feel better when I read your comments and posts. Our conversations tend to be the highlight of the day or week. A huge thanks to all of you.
But like most of us, there were challenges to address and overcome. I had the difficult but necessary occasion to dismiss a few people from my life. As we all know, the toxins that surface in our lives have no place. We don`t realize the heaviness of the weight that we carry until it is removed and then the light shines brighter. I will strive this year to stay ahead of that which brings me down.
So I begin this year knowing that I am in a very good place with opportunities ahead.
Worth Living had an incredible year with more people getting involved and many initiatives undertaken including blog posts, Spotify playlists, podcasts, presentations, wellness days, and a Facebook live forum where some Ambassadors shared their journeys.
Going forward, we will continue to have more blog posts, music, and podcasts.
Some Worth Living Events are already scheduled.
The Worth Living Conference is set for May 31 in Halifax with an incredible line up of speakers. I hope to see you there. We are looking at more Conferences and Wellness Days as well as Speaking Tours. We could host these in your city or community.
The Worth Living Run Ambassadors Program will have a Team in the Bluenose Marathon in Halifax this June. We have local runners and some coming from other provinces to participate. Please consider joining us. You could launch your own Run Ambassadors Program in your city or community.
One idea we will explore is a Worth Living App.
It is critical that we continue to share our journeys as we are making a difference by helping others while we help ourselves. No one is alone on this path to wellness. Each step is important, with some steps going forward, some sideways, and others backward. Every step, whether small or huge, leads us overall to that safe and comfortable place in time. Never give up.
One goal I have is to establish the Worth Living Policy Institute as a centre to bring together Worth Living Ambassadors and others to discuss the important issues facing people with mental health challenges. The Institute and discussions will be focused from the perspective that we, as people who know the darkness, bring to the conversation. We would issue and present papers and articles to be published. As well, we could include some discussions in podcasts and other means to engage the public. We need to get policy makers more in tune. I acknowledge that this will require time and work, but it all must start with an idea. Dreams do become reality. There was a day when Worth Living was just me!
All of this could not have been achieved without you. The support, help, and ideas from the Worth Living Ambassadors are all needed. You make my life better. You make Worth Living a more relevant, active, and current initiative.
All we want is the opportunity to have a hopeful, healthy, and happy life. We all deserve the best, a life worth living.
Please contact me if you have any ideas or suggestions. I am always looking for people to participate in Worth Living Activities, so please reach out.
I wish you well this year. This year belongs to us!
Worth Living Ambassador Nikki Opara
My name is Nikki Opara, I am 23 years old and a recent psychology graduate from California State University Fullerton. I am a Mental Health/ Lifestyle Blogger, with a passion for fighting the stigma around mental illness and encouraging young teens to never give up. I hope to attend grad school someday and pursue my masters in macro social work and global practice. – Nikki ( Her Daring Thoughts ).
Four Ways to Combat Negative Self Talk
Every one of us gets a negative thought or two that flows into our minds. Not everyone is “Positive Nancy” 24/7 I guarantee you. But I will say this, the difference between you and the person next to you is that they have mastered the approach of combating Negative Self Talk when it comes. These are four things I am learning to do to help me combat negative self- talk.
- Recognize Your Negative Voice
The sooner you realize that you are your own biggest critic, the faster you will be at recognizing the negativity you are telling yourself. It was a big eye opener for me when I had to come to the realization that although I have had my share of bullies from school, I am actually my own biggest bully. I can talk so low to myself to the point where I am in tears and wanting the day to be over. This is the most important step in combatting negative self- talk because now you know who to focus on, YOU. Because at the end of the day, YOU have the power to control YOU.
- Reality Testing.
Fact check your thoughts. Sit with it for a minute and ask yourself if the negativity you are saying over to yourself is factual or just your interpretation based on a current circumstance.
Okay I know this might sound like you’re doing too much, but I truly believe it is absolutely necessary. I was reading an article called ,“Challenging Negative Self Talk” by Ben Martin (PSY.D), in this article, he elaborates on the idea of Reality Testing. This method helps to really differentiate on whether what you are saying to yourself is true or if you are jumping to negative conclusions
- Put Your Thoughts Into Perspective
In Ben’s article, he also mentioned another really good point. Putting your thoughts into perspective. A lot of times being anxious, at least for me, comes from the negative over-exaggerated stories I am telling myself. One of the most difficult things for us to do in an on-going rushed culture is to take a step back and put things into perspective. Take a minute to ask yourself,“ Will this matter in 5 years?”, “ Is this situation as bad as I am making it out to be?”, “ What are my best options?”
- Replace With Positive Affirmation
Replace those negative comments with positive affirmations.“ I’m actually going to be okay” , “ I am capable and smart enough to pass the next exam, I just need to study harder”. There is so much power that is given back to you when you follow all the past three steps and then come to the positive affirmations. You will notice that as you practice these methods, you feel more in control of your thoughts and what you allow your mind and body to entertain.
If there is something I have learned over the past 23 years of living, it is that there are already so many people in the world with negative things to say. You might as well be the nicest you can be to yourself. You owe it to yourself. You are going to be OKAY.
Kim LaMontagne Lead Worth Living New England Chapter
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.
Mental Health in the Workplace: Increasing the Usage Rate of Employee Assistance Programs to Foster Employee Mental Wellness
In 2014, a mental health survey of 800 voters in Massachusetts was conducted by National Alliance on Mental Illness, Massachusetts Chapter and Martilla Strategies. The following responses were gathered around mental health and peer support in the workplace;
- Question #1: It is best to tell your family about mental health issues OR is it best to keep it quiet:
- Answer: 92% responded best to tell family.
- Question #2 – Is it best to tell your friends about mental health issues OR is it best to keep it quiet:
- Answer: 76% responded best to tell friends.
- Question # 3 – It is best to tell your co-workers about mental health issues OR is it best to keep it quiet.
- Answer: 27% suggest telling a co-worker
The responses are a clear indicator that employees do not feel safe sharing information with co-workers about mental health concerns. In the same survey, more than 90% of voters believe mental illness is a serious issue and 60% believe it is a very serious issue. Additionally, 82% believe most people with a mental illness do not get the treatment they need and more than 75% believe mental illness is an issue that deserves increased attention on the state and national level. Studies further document that stigma and widely-shared negative stereotypes about the causes and effects of mental illness — are the single greatest barrier to treating mental illness and lowering costs (Employee Benefits, 2007).
A recent meta-analysis based on a 174 large scale mental health surveys across 63 countries revealed that common mental disorders (CMD), (e.g. anxiety, depression, substance abuse) were experienced by “18% of adults within the past 12 months and 30% of adults over their lifetime” (Jarman et al., 2016). Approximately two thirds of people with CMD are working with “significant consequences for labor efficiency and economic growth” (Jarman et al., 2016). The cost of CMD has been forecasted to be $16 trillion over 2012-2032 (Jarman et al., 2016).
In 1974, the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse adopted the term Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in response to the need for employee intervention and support. An EAP is described as a “job performance-based intervention program in the workplace” (Hartwell et al., 1996). EAP’s have been widely adopted and implemented in many organizations as “benevolent programs” (Ajunwa et. al., 2016) for employees to seek counseling for mental health, stress and substance abuse issues. In 2002 well over 100 million employees had access to an EAP with much of the growth happening in the 1990’s (The Employee Assistance Trade Association, 2016).
EAP’s can be a job-based program operating within an organization to identify and assist troubled employees or an outside vendor that the organization contracts with to provide an agreed upon set of services to the employees. Every organization has different needs so an EAP is not a one size fits all. Over 500 EAP providers exist in the United States providing access to mental health services for millions of working professionals.
Today over “75% of US employers provide EAP services” (Jacobson & Sacco, 2012). Although a high rate of employers offers the benefit, the average usage rate of face to face counseling through EAP services in the U.S. is a staggering 3.5-5%. Additionally, only 1.5-2.5% of all EAP clients present with alcohol or drug (AOD) “substance dependence” related problems (Jacobson & Sacco, 2012). With that, it is up to the EAP provider to counsel to the stated problem and uncover if there are any underlying issues in addition to what the employee initially presents with. Participation in a recovery program is voluntary on the employee’s behalf. Prior research suggests that when an employee engages with EAP counseling and recommendations, there is an increase in participation in a recovery program. EAP’s “more than pay for themselves by lowering companies’ direct and indirect medical costs” (Hemp, 2004).
There is a gap in knowledge that addresses what the employer is doing to increase engagement and use of the EAP to help ensure employee well-being. Although 75 % of medium to large employers offer an EAP, there is a stigma around substance abuse and mental health that creates a barrier for EAP use. There is also a fear of confidentiality when using an EAP, thus preventing treatment and intervention. Stigma around mental health leads to the “under treatment of mental illness, with severe financial consequences” (Martilla Strategies, 2014). How can leadership interventions help decrease the barriers to EAP usage which, in turn, increases the return on the EAP investment?
For maximum participation, employees must have trust that confidentiality will be assured if engaging in EAP services. To increase engagement in EAP services, a leadership training approach should be taken to support employee engagement. Leadership training should provide tools necessary for those in supervisory positions to help identify employees in need and provide intervention to minimize the level of the incident and increase employee recovery. Printable resources and fact sheets about the EAP services should be shared with employees who are at risk. Additionally, employees should be educated about the myriad of services offered from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and other organizations. Employers can engage in a Mental Health First Aid program and encourage involvement in other NAMI programs. Providing the tools to the employee is an essential part of addressing the issue. For every employee in the workplace being treated for depression, 2.3 or 70% are receiving no treatment (Martilla Strategies, 2014). For the high ‘at risk’ population of employees to seek services or admit to a mental health ailment, they need to build trust in leadership of their organization and be assured support rather than stigma.
The literature suggests the approach to dispelling stigma is multipronged including; education to dispel myths, protest to reduce stigma and “contact to put a human face on mental illness” (Martin, 2008). Sharing experiences of mental illness through direct person to person connections “can create long term attitudinal change and affect behavior (Knapp et al, 2007). Those individuals who are brave enough to share their story of recovery from mental illness should be invited into the workplace to speak with employees. Sharing their story is a powerful way to start the conversation about mental health. It is also suggested that both consumer/survivor and leadership involvement is “critical to the success” of an anti-stigma campaign (Martin, 2008). Additionally, creating internal anti stigma champions in leadership roles helps to increase long term program participation and commitment (Martin, 2008).
The world’s first National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (Standard) was launched in Canada by the Mental Health Commission. The Standard “Provides a framework to promote the mental health of and prevent the psychological harm to employees providing guidance and resources to help organizations of all sizes and sectors” (MHCC, 2016). It is a global first. A step by step guide geared to senior level leaders aimed at providing resources and tools to be a responsible employer.
In 2014, a 3-year Case Study Research Project was launched to better understand how employers are implementing the Standard across Canada. Over 40 organizations participated in research study. Data was collected at baseline, interim and final points. The findings from this 3-year CSRP provide concrete data for HR professionals and CEOs interested in strengthening the bottom line.
Key findings include;
- 90% of participating organizations indicated their motivator for implementing the Standard was to protect the psychological health of employees
- 91 % of participating organizations stated implementing the Standard was the right thing to do
- 60% of organizations have implemented activities to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace
- 70% are providing employees with EAP services tailored to mental health
- 72% compliance by participating organizations in the five elements of the Standard (commitment, leadership/participation, planning, implementation, evaluation and corrective action, management review).
Additionally, a 2008 report written for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, provided a review of several anti-stigma programs currently in place around the world to understand the effectiveness of the approaches used. Programs include; Breaking the Silence (USA), Change Your Mind About Mental Health (USA), Entertainment Industries Council (USA), In Our Own Voice (USA), Nothing to Hide (USA), Active Minds on Campus (USA), The Kids on the Block (USA), Stigma Watch (Australia), Like Minds, Like Mine ( New Zealand), Beyond Blue (Australia), Mind (England), See Me (Scotland), SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration – USA), Mental Health Law Center (Australia), (Martin, 2008). The aim of the programs includes education, challenging stereotypes, decrease discrimination, increase inclusion, promote self-confidence and encourage legislative change.
As a leader in mental health programs, Australia developed a broad strategy to involve governmental and non-governmental partners to tackle the issue from several angles including a public education campaign (BeyondBlue), anti-stigma initiatives (SANE Australia), workplace education, (Mindframe Australia) and legal advocacy (Mental Health Law Center). In England, the national lottery recently committed £18 million to a 4-year anti-discrimination program to comprised of a national media campaign, community outreach, empowerment and engagement and “training and education targeting leaders and professionals to reduce discriminatory behaviors” (Martin, 2008). Other countries have developed similar programs to foster mental health and well-being.
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 on the job performance, there must be a comprehensive top down organizational strategy. A top down strategy ensures 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.
Start the conversation now about mental wellness.
It’s good for the bottom line.
Kim LaMontagne, MBA
Mental Health Advocate, Speaker and Teacher for National Alliance on Mental Illness, NH Chapter
Ambassador, Keynote Speaker and Lead for Worth Living, New England Chapter
Sr. Learning Consultant, Walden University- National Accounts
Contributing Author, Consultant and Survivor
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 Available at: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezp.roehampton-online.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=da832e6b-817e-4db9-bfd3-97fdb8d93c64%40sessionmgr4007&hid=4113 (Accessed: 21 October 2016).
Employee Benefit News, “Inner workings Survey: A Look at Mental Health in Today’s Workplace” (2007).
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 (Gower 2014)
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 (Accessed: 1 February 2017).
Jacobson, J, & Sacco, P 2012, ‘Employee Assistance Program Services for Alcohol and Other Drug Problems: Implications for Increased Identification and Engagement in Treatment’, American Journal On Addictions, 21, 5, pp. 468-475, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 2 October 2016.
Jarman, L., Martin, A., Venn, A., Otahal, P., Blizzard, L., Teale, B. and Sanderson, K. (2016) ‘Workplace health promotion and mental health: Three-Year findings from Partnering Healthy@Work’, PLOS ONE, 11(8), p. e0156791. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0156791.
Knapp,M., McDaid, D., Mossialos, E., Thornicroft, G., (2007) Mental Health policy and Practice Across Europe.
Martin, Neasa, (2009), From Discrimination to Social Inclusion, The Mental Health Coordinating Council, Retrieved 3/19/17, available at http://www.mhcc.org.au/media/5646/from-discrimination-to-social-inclusion-lit-review.pdf
Mental Health Commission on Canada (MHCC), (2017) Case Study Research Project Findings – The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, 2017, Retrieved 3/19/17 available at http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/sites/default/files/2017-03/case_study_research_project_findings_2017_eng.pdf
National Alliance on Mental Illness, (2014), Massachusetts Survey Measuring Stigma Toward Mental Illness, Martilla Strategies.
Worth Living Ambassador Vanessa Serrao
My name is Vanessa Serrao and I am a 26 year old author, freelance writer, and preschool
supply teacher. I am a strong advocate for mental health and I am passionate about writing. I
enjoy writing about health and wellness, sports, mental health, and trending news. I also love
music and enjoy playing the guitar.
Four Health Concerns That Anxiety Can Cause
When it comes to having anxiety, well it is far from pleasant. From my own experience I can
tell you that it is very hard to cope with, but on a positive note it is possible to overcome.
What makes it so hard to deal with anxiety is that it comes with health concerns. Although
they are more on the minor side, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored. The brain has the
power to control the body and when the brain is experiencing anxiety, this affects the body in
a negative manner.
Here are four health concerns that come with having anxiety. Also, keep
in mind that everyone experiences different bodily health concerns when it comes to
anxiety, but these are the ones that with which I came into contact.
Acid reflux is a common stomach disorder that can be induced by stress and anxiety. For
me, each time I had bad anxiety that is when my acid reflux came on. So when my anxiety
went away, so did my acid reflux. Essentially, the only way that I cured my acid reflux was by
reducing my anxiety and stress. But there were some things I did and used in order to
relieve my symptoms of acid reflux. It was hard to treat fully until my symptoms of anxiety
were alleviated. You can take tums, gaviscon, drink aloe vera juice, celery juice, chew gum,
drink plenty of water, and drink herbal teas. None of these things is a cure but are ways to
reduce symptoms associated with acid reflux. In addition, taking probiotics is essential for a
leaky gut. For acid reflux, it is a very uncomfortable, bothersome and sometimes painful
ailment. It consists of heartburn and burning in the chest as well as throat and ears. It can
also cause stomach pain, your teeth hurting, bleeding gums and sores in your mouth. Since
acid is coming up from your stomach, this means that your diet has to be changed which
means foods that don’t contain acid in them. This meant my eliminating alcohol, anything
with tomatoes or tomato sauce, orange juice, chocolate, not having too much red meats,
onions, mushrooms, peppers, carbonated drinks and coffee. Even though some of these
foods are healthy, they shouldn’t be consumed since they contain acid and it will
make acid reflux worse.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes you to not sleep in the evening and where you are
left tired and drowsy during the day. In fact, you may find yourself sometimes falling asleep
during the day. I experience insomnia since my anxiety affected my sleep. I had racing
thoughts at night and since I always worried about not sleeping this kept me up at night. I
would continuously toss and turn and not be able to relax. Insomnia is a horrible thing to deal
with especially when you have anxiety. When you don’t get a good night’s rest, it affects your
whole day. Your mind isn’t sharp, therefore it is hard to function throughout the day. When
this continues to happen it leads to forgetfulness and a tired brain. It just drains you and
takes away your confidence. In addition, lack of sleep can lead to skin breakouts and dark
circles. Some things that helped me sleep at night were meditating, a hot bath, or herbal tea
before bed, not looking at the time when sleeping, and doing yoga. All these things are
beneficial in order to help you fall asleep better.
Weight can become an issue and concern when you struggle with anxiety, depression or
other mental health disorders. Some people gain weight but many also lose weight. For me, I
lost weight and it was unhealthy. I lost about 30-40 pounds and it wasn’t me. I didn’t feel
healthy, sharp or confident. I just didn’t have an appetite when I would get up in the morning
running on barely any sleep. I could see it in my body. My chest look more flat and my face
longer. Losing weight this way was unhealthy, but it wasn’t my intention to lose weight. Also
with my acid reflux, I ate less, since after I ate it would trigger my heartburn to start. This was
bad as I wasn’t supposed to skip meals and I tried not to, but I definitely cut down on food.
The feeling of trying to eat and getting food down was unpleasant. Feeling like your throat is
closing and no food being able to go down unless it was yogurt or something soft.
4. Hormonal Imbalance
When you are experiencing anxiety and stress this puts your body into a whack and it
messes up your hormones. I experienced a hormonal imbalance as I was experiencing
hormonal acne as well as skipping a period or receiving my period late. When you are
experiencing anxiety, it affects your body in different ways, but a hormonal imbalance is quite
common when experiencing anxiety and stress. Hormonal acne occurs along the jawline and
it is painful and cystic. Breaking out in the same spots over and over again was never fun. I
tried to fix my hormonal imbalance by adding more fibre and iron into my diet and this did
help. Also, once I felt less anxious my hormones were more balanced again
DJ Scratchley Q Worth Living Director of Music and Official DJ
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
Worth Living Top 10 Countdown
10. Mimi – Eskai
9. One Man Island- A.M.R
8. Consequence Of You – PROFF ft. Cory Friesenhan
7. Florescence – Aeron Aether
6. Be Together – Universal Solution
5. Sanctuary – Jay FM
4. Whither – Shingo Nakamura (Shawn Mitiska Remix)
3. To Mean It – Eleven.Five
2. Always Be – Elypsis & Arielle Maren
1. Adrift in the Borderless Sea – Allay & Rod V
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.
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.