MVP Seminars Blogs

No business is too big or too small to feel the economic impact of untreated mental illness. The economic price tag of mental illness in the workplace is skyrocketing.  A recent report puts the price at up to $80 billion in the United States. This figure includes medical costs, costs from lost productivity due to long-term and short-term disability, and costs to quality of life. Mental illnesses have surpassed heart disease as the fastest-growing, costliest disabilities in the country. Early intervention and treatment makes dollars and “sense.” For example, when workers get early access to treatment, companies can save $5,000 to $10,000 annually. Getting an employee to treatment and thus cost-savings for the company is blocked by the ugly face of the stigma attached to mental illness. Many people don’t get treatment out of fear it will affect their job security if their employer knew they had a mental illness. Combating stigma should be a top priority for companies. How?  First and foremost is to send a clear message to all employees that non-discrimatory practice applies to employees who have a mental illness. The company should make it clear it considers mental illness no different than a physical illness in how an employee should be treated in the workplace.     .  
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The Last Great Struggle for I was a teenager living in the in the South during the ‘60’s. It was the decade of the Vietnam and Cold Wars. It was also the decade of the Civil Rights Movement.

I saw stigma dressed in white robes and setting fire to tall crosses as white town’s people cheered. My contempt for stigma (today’s politically-correct word for discrimination) and denial of civil rights in any form was seared into my psyche, if not my soul. As Americans matured and we reached some degree of racial equality and sexual orientation acceptance, we all know there is more work to do, especially in employment opportunities for all people regardless of color, religion, gender or even gender identity and certainly for people with physical and mental disabilities. Culture counts when it comes to mental health in the workplace. African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans are not immune to mental health issues. The approach, however, may vary. Is it possible that racism and prejudice contributed to the onset of mental health issues, as one British study discovered? An African-American employee, for instance, comes from a segment of society well aware of the emotional impact of discrimination and where access to mental health services is often limited--one out of three, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Asian Americans’ culture, on the other hand, centers on family treatment of mental illness or denial it even exists. Due to cultural perceptions, Asian Americans may feel shame or embarrassment in experiencing a mental illness, and prefer not to seek care, for fear of shaming their family. In many Asian cultures, expression of one’s feelings is an admission of weakness. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Many Hispanics/ Latinos rely on their extended family, community, traditional healers, and/ or churches for help during a health crisis. As a result, thousands of Hispanics/Latinos with mental illness often go without professional mental health treatment.” Hiring quotas under Affirmative Action are not the issue. There is nothing under the 1964 Civil Right Act and later amended that protects veterans, the disabled or people over 40. These groups are protected under other Federal employment laws most notably the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act as amended in 2008.  It is now easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the Act. (Employers should familiarize themselves with EEOC Enforcement Guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Psychiatric Disabilities.) The World Health Organization  concluded in a recent study that mental health should be an imperative concern to employers and managers (See Mental Health and Work: Impact, Issues and Good Practices.) In a post in the Harvard Business Review’s Blog Network last January, Rob Lachenauer, the CEO and a co-founder of Banyan Family Business Advisors, wrote “The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prevents employers from discriminating against people who have a mental illness, but my experience as a consultant at a very large strategy firm whose clients are giant corporations had been that if someone admitted that he or she struggled with depression or mental illness, that would often be career suicide. Indeed, a former vice president of a major investment banking firm, when told about this blog, warned me against publishing it: ‘Clients are afraid to work with firms that have mentally ill people on the professional staff.’ “ Can mentally ill minorities succeed? Ask: ·      Earl Campbell, former football pro and current business owner, who documented his personal struggle in “The Earl Campbell Story: A Football Great’s Battle with Panic Disorder.” ·      “Academy Award-winning actress Hale Berry who battled depression and once attempted suicide. ·      Singer Janet Jackson who has chronically suffered from depression, especially for the two years preceding the release of “Velvet Rope.” “People living with mental illness deserve better from our society. The vast majority of them have  many gifts, talents and energy to contribute, but cannot because they face social and economic isolation due to prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes,” wrote Joel Corcoran, Executive Director of Clubhouse International, which helps communities worldwide establish clubhouses to help people with mental illness have hope and opportunities to reach their full potential. I began this post with a dark memory of the Civil Rights Movement.  I conclude with the words of Maya Angelou who reminds us that all people deserve civil rights and I believe that includes the mentally ill person’s right to work.It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.”         F
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  In the Summer of 1988, I was so terrified the university where I was a faculty member would find out I was treated for depression in a local psychiatric hospital that I ran away from my job, wife and children. It took five years to understand my abandonment of job and family was a manic episode. I had Bipolar Disorder. My long, difficult journey as a mental patient in Corporate America began one Spring morning in 1993 as I left a psychiatrist’s office with a diagnosis and my first prescription for lithium (one of the medications used to treat manic-depression). In the 18 years following the diagnosis, I had many low-paying jobs that I could not keep because of symptoms of my illness coupled with side effects of the medication (especially short-term memory loss and difficulty concentrating). “But,” I reminded myself, “I’m a former college professor and broadcast journalist! My voice has been heard on the air around the world. I’m well-educated with a master’s degree and all-but-dissertation for a Ph.D.!”  Never-the-less, I often found myself working as a telemarketer or janitor managed by people with a high school diploma at best whenever I couldn’t snag a part-time college teaching position or contract technical writing and editing assignment. This self-disclosure about my employment history is difficult for me even today, but it   gives me the credibility to speak to corporate leaders about mental illness in the workplace. In an ideal situation, I could have disclosed my mental illness and noted I needed accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act such as a quiet work area, frequent breaks, and a job coach who could help me in keeping track of things I needed to remember to do my job better. Employers still find a way to discriminate (“Not a right fit, sorry.”) and mental illness stigma based on ignorance is often rampant in the workplace. Surveys of U.S. employers show that half of them are reluctant to hire someone with a past psychiatric history or currently undergoing treatment for depression, and approximately 70% are reluctant to hire someone with a history of substance abuse or someone currently taking antipsychotic medication. Half would rarely employ someone with a psychiatric disability and almost a quarter would dismiss someone who had not disclosed a mental illness.  All of these behaviors violate the ADA, which requires employers to make reasonable workplace accommodations for people with physical and mental disabilities. My passion now is to prevent my experiences from happening to other mentally ill people who simply want to work. Eighty percent of people with a severe mental illness are unemployed, according to a recent study by the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI). We all pay taxes to support government disability payments and other services. Some of that money could be saved when companies stop viewing the mentally ill as “disposable people” and instead see them as an investment in future profitability. So what did my many employers miss over 18 years because I didn’t disclose my disability? They missed a dedicated, conscientious, articulate and well-educated professional any company would be delighted to have on their staff. Fear of stigma and hiring discrimination kept my mouth shut, my bank account often empty and companies without a valuable asset. If the unemployed mentally ill don’t commit suicide or become homeless and burden hospital emergency rooms just to get off the streets, they often commit a crime just to go to jail where they can get three meals a day and a cot. That’s what happens in what is called the “largest mental institution” in America—the Los Angeles County Jail. (According to the ACLU, the annual cost of housing somebody in the LA County Jail with severe mental illness for a year is about $65,000 compared with $20,000 to $25,000 for permanent non-confined support housing with services on site.) My professional resume includes a stint as a freelance reporter for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” so I’m often drawn to audio documentation in my writing. You may want to listen to NPR’s report on the Los Angeles County Jail. My challenge to Corporate America is two-fold: make your companies mental health-friendly and consider investing in community resources such as supported employment programs, similar to California’s, in your state. It’s all up to the CEO. That’s where the buck stops, as President Harry Truman liked to say.   Please participate in a poll  (google document form below) I’m taking for future reference in my writing and speaking. This poll will be included in future blog posts, too.  
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Bleeding money isn’t limited to American companies, but let’s look at them as a typical example.
Fact: Among those of working age, it is estimated that the prevalence of mental
illness and/or substance abuse in any given year approaches 25%.
Fact:  Mental illness and substance abuse cost employers in indirect costs an estimated $80 to $100 billion annually.
“Employers understand that behavioral health benefits are essential components of healthcare benefits. Over the past few decades, employers have tried to improve the delivery of behavioral healthcare services in a number of ways. Despite important progress, employers’ current approaches to managing cost and quality are insufficient. Standardized and integrated programs addressing the delivery of behavioral healthcare services remain rare. And unfortunately, it is not customary for employers to integrate behavioral healthcare benefits offered through the health plan with behavioral health benefits offered through disability management, employee assistance, or health promotion programs. The result is that employee sponsored behavioral benefits are fragmented, uncoordinated, duplicative, and uneven in terms of access and quality.”
What are “indirect costs”?
• Mental illness causes more days of work loss and work impairment than many other chronic conditions
• Approximately 217 million days of work are lost annually due to productivity decline related to mental illness and substance abuse disorders
• Mental illness and substance abuse disorders represent the top 5 causes of disability among people age 15-44 in the United States and Canada
• Mental illness and substance abuse disorders, combined as a group, are the fifth leading cause of short-term disability and the third leading cause of long-term disability for employers in the United States.
• Stress and depression probably explain “close to 30% of the total risk of heart attacks,” according to a cardiovascular physician at the University of Florida.
• Mental illness short-term disability claims are growing by 10% annually and can account for 30% or more of the corporate disability experience for the typical employer.
• -Yet, less than one-third of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder receive treatment in any given year.
It is true many companies are making great progress in dealing with behavioral health issues of their employees, but there is a long way to go.
In my opinion, the current international news about how to combat terrorism is an interesting parallel with the way to combat the economic impact mental illness and substance abuse has on American businesses.
 “Go to the source,” we are told by our political leaders, “and deal with the reasons why young people are deciding to join terrorist groups such as ISIS.”
I was struck by the similarity to the waste in business because the root attitude is not identified and managed. That root attitude is stigma.  Fear of stigma keeps people from seeking psychiatric help when needed and stigma is fostered by many employers who are in the business of saving and making money, not educating management about behavioral health issues.
The Disability Management Employer Coalition’s 2014 Behavioral Risk Survey posed 42 online questions to 314 employers of various sizes between July and August last year.
The results suggest the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace still very much exists.
Respondents were asked what level of, or change in, stigma associated with “having a psychological/psychiatric problem” they have witnessed in the last two years.
• Overall, 41.4 percent of respondents said the stigma remained the same, with 25.1 percent indicating that the stigma has actually decreased in that time.
• Another 24.2 percent, however, said the stigma has increased since 2012. And, consider that just 7.6 percent reported feeling the same way two years ago.
How to American companies save $100 Billion Dollars a year? Think of how we hope to keep our youth from falling for ISIS’s propaganda: change the message:
Mental illness is no different than a physical illness. It requires acceptance and treatment. To do no less is corporate suicide.
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"I should have more money" "I should be further along in my career" "I should have gotten that job" "I should be healthy" "I should have my retirement in place" "I should be in school" "I should finish school" "I should be married" "I should get a divorce" "I should lose weight" "I should have said something in the meeting" "I should have just shut up" These are just a few ways that our mind is constantly "should-ing" on ourselves. Because we have over 60,000 thoughts a day, it's impossible to examine each thought to see which ones are "should-ing" So how do you get relief from the "should-ing" syndrome? How do you catch yourself "should-ing"? Whenever you have a stressful thought, stop.  Examine the thought and ask yourself, "Is that true?"  "Is that absolutely true?" The thoughts that give us the most pain, the most suffering, are often  the ones that tell us "You should..." or "You shouldn't...." Where do they come from? Usually from our past experiences; what society tells us to do or don't do; advertisers; our parents; friends; relatives; or the media. You don't have to be a victim any longer When the stressful thought comes up, instead of pushing it down, running from it, or fighting it, just ask yourself, "Is this the truth?" For example, when someone ignores you at work or school, and doesn't speak to you.  The mind will spin a story.  "They don't like me."  "Maybe it's something I said last week." "Did they hear something about me?" Notice how the mind creates a scenario that is more colorful and elaborate than a blockbuster movie.  Instead of trying to suppress the thoughts, ask yourself, "Is that the truth?"  "Do I know that for sure?" The mind is doing what the mind does.  It questions everything.  But, you don't have to be dragged behind the mind like a rider falling off a horse. You are the master of your mind.  You can decide which thoughts you are going to entertain. You can decide to let the stressful thoughts go by doing a direct inquiry. "What is going on here?"  "What am I believing?"  "Is it true?" Socrates said, "An unexamined life is not worth living." What he was saying is that we follow beliefs and thoughts that lead us down the wrong path.   We don't stop to think, "Is this the best thing for me to do."  "Am I following the crowd?"  "Am I following what society says I should do, instead of what is good for me?" Gangaji, a wonderful teacher said this, "Society is a cult." When you stop to think of it, that's true.  We drink the kool-aid that society gives us, and follow along without examining beliefs that we swallow. Examine those stressful thoughts. Ask yourself: Is it really necessary to have a body of a 16 year-old when I'm over 30? Will I have loads of friends if I drink a certain beer? Will I be loved if I wear the right clothes? Will my world crumble if Senator Romney becomes president? Will my world crumble if President Obama remains in office? These types of ideas that society gives us constantly become thoughts in our head.  And, if we don't examine them, they become beliefs. Beliefs, the wrong beliefs, become fears.  Before you know it, you're living in fear all because of what you heard in the media, a friend told you, or a family member's fears they project onto you. We can get so tangled up in other people's beliefs that we don't even realize that our stressful thoughts were not coming from us.  They came from other people.  But, when they are not examined, they become our beliefs, and then, it doesn't matter where they came from because we have embodied them. It's an endless circle.  But that circle can be broken, by inquiring about a thought.  Stop.  Ask yourself  "Is that the absolute truth?" Stay awake!  
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The physician-theologian Luke recorded a very extraordinary narrative in chapter 13:10-13 of his Gospel document.  The narrative report begins by stating that Jesus had been teaching in a synagogue on a Sabbath day.  It was both his custom, and practice to teach on the Sabbath day. Luke records that while Jesus was teaching, a woman appeared in the synagogue who had a very interesting  medico-spiritual condition.  She had a Spirit of infirmity (weakness) that had been with her for eighteen years; and this Spirit of infirmity  had caused her to have a chronic condition that made her “bowed together”.  She was bent over in two. The Greek word here is sugkupto and it means to be completely overcome.  Luke further adds that as a result of sugkupto she could not or was not able to unbend or lift up. Luke states that when Jesus saw her he called to her and said unto her,  “Woman you are loosed of your infirmity” and then he laid hands upon her and she immediately became upright and glorified God. There are three elements or points if you will that must be noticed:  (1) She was within the synagogue on the Sabbath when Jesus was teaching.  She was in the right place and at the right time.  She was in the place where the Word of God was being taught by God .  (2) He saw her with complete  accurate intuitive perception.  He observed her unusual condition.  He saw her as a unique person.  He saw her with his perfect understanding of the human condition, and that her condition was chronic and old.  (3) He knew that the Spirit of infirmity had taken control of her life.  He knew that she had learned to live within the oppressive sphere of her condition.  He knew that this woman had come to identify herself with her condition.  He could see the crushing reality that controlled her life. Jesus called to the woman.  Imagine the impact of his call to her.  Please note that He was not ashamed of her condition.  Jesus calls those who are chronically under a spirit of weakness that seeks to destroy their lives.  Such are the lives of those who have been under a spirit of infirmity from childhood sexual abuse. The victims of childhood sexual abuse oftentimes feel completely overcome by the unspeakable acts that they were forced to suffer.  The victim of childhood sexual abuse has been completely overcome by the spirit of infirmity to such an extent that she too may identify herself with the infirmity which may also be chronic.  It is the enforced secrecy of the abusive events that perpetuates their longevity.  It is the fear of unimaginable retaliation that keep the child-victim from telling an authority figure.  She is told that no one would believe her if she told of the abusive events.  She is therefore forced into a world of disconnection from self and others.  A world where trust of oneself  and the world has been shattered. The therapeutic intervention of Jesus centered upon a creative speech act that sets her free immediately.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, you are loosed of your spirit of infirmity!”  Notice, he identified her by gender and by her new condition.  “You are” takes her out of the past and places her within the liberating sphere of the powerful Word of God in the present. Victims of childhood sexual abuse oftentimes live in the past within the sphere of the present.  This woman had lived in her condition for eighteen years. “You are” is an emphatic statement that the past has been forever suspended and that what was has been completely overcome by the powerful reality of her new condition.  She was loosed of her condition.  To be loosed means that one who was formally bound has been set free.  God himself had loosed her out from the stranglehold of the oppressive spirit of infirmity.  The powerful Jesus can still set free those who feel or believe that they are worthless or too bad to be helped.  He is not ashamed of you!  Do not allow the shame of childhood sexual abuse to keep you bowed over.  Stop owning the shame that was forced upon your life.  It wasn't your fault. Dear ones, who have suffered childhood sexual abuse, give that shame that you have come to live with to the powerful Jesus.  “Woman, you are loosed” of your condition is an open invitation to any woman, girl, or child who has been or is now a victim of childhood sexual abuse.  Remember, it wasn’t your fault and you did not deserve the abuse.  You did nothing to cause such horrible deeds. God loves you and he has a great plan for your life!   Copyright 2011 Josiah Rich Ministries All rights reserved.  No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from  it’s author.  (11/09/11)
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