Tag Archives: Mental Health Recovery

Before you can recover

I’ve had enough

I remember like it was yesterday the moment I decided I was going to recover.

I looked in the bathroom mirror and I had one of those moments of clarity and in that moment I realised I had been a people pleaser, and that my life, was not my life. A rage built up within me and I yelled (at my own reflection) ‘what the F*&k are you doing?’. That pivotal moment changed my life. I crawled myself out of that hole I was in. I used the anger as leverage. And pulled myself out. I started using the resources available to me. More importantly, I started to see the options and resources available to me, that I had never noticed before.
Before you can recover
In short, I took responsibility for my feelings.

No, this was not an overnight thing and I have made many mistakes in this journey, but I was, and still remain, determined to live my life by my standards. It’s been an arduous journey to say the least but it’s been a worthwhile one.

Interestingly, the research on Recovery shows that my moment is a fairly common one. A lot of people who recover have had a moment like that. My tip? Don’t be afraid of a little anger and of making mistakes. Or even more scary, that the people you have around you now will not love you anymore if you change. The price of not changing is too high. Don’t pay it. Move towards recovery and freedom.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Recovery at The Mental Health Recovery Institute

What Does ‘Recovery’ Mean?

Often, when I deal with health professionals and people in training, I get a range of responses when they learn that people can recover from mental disorder. Some are surprised, some intrigued by the concept since they’ve never heard it before and others oppose the idea of recovery with a vengeance. Why? What’s going on?

The concept of ‘Recovery’ from mental health problems has been around for hundreds of years, and yet for many people, the fact that people do recover from mental disorders is something that still surprises many people.

Recovery at the Workplace Mental Health InstituteThere are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that the traditional model of psychiatry has explicitly stated that people do not recover. We now have oodles of research showing that this simply isn’t true. But nonetheless, the misconception persists.

The term ’Recovery’ has a long political, social, and clinical history, and its meaning has been much debated particularly over the last 10 to 20 years. I won’t go into the details now, (I could write a whole book on it, and probably will one day).

For now, what you need to know is that the term ‘Recovery’ has particular meanings within the mental health sector (even though many working in that sector still do not understand it fully).

So here is my attempt to summarize some pretty complex ideas, into a few simple explanations of what ‘Recovery’ means to us here at The Workplace Mental Health Institute:

The Recovery approach adopted by the Workplace Mental Health Institute emphasizes and supports a person’s potential for recovery.

1. We believe Recovery is not only possible, it’s probable.

    1. Research over the last hundred years is showing that on average around 57% of people with severe mental health problems do recover. And the statistics are much better for people with less severe mental distress, those who get help early, and with newer therapeutic modalities now available.

2. We view mental distress as mostly psychological, social or spiritual in nature, not as an illness. Though there maybe physical consequences and interactions.

    1. Treatment therefore can come from a range of alternatives. We are all unique and one size does not fit all.

3. We focus on ability, not disability.

    1. A person experiencing mental distress has strengths, skills and personal characteristics despite their current emotional state. Research indicates that when people recover from a mental health problem, they are actually more productive at work than they were before becoming unwell, due to their increased resilience, and strategies learned.

4. We define Recovery as the absence of severe or abnormal distress, and the presence of positive emotions and wellness.

    1. Everyone has some stress from time to time, but if mental ill-health is defined as severe emotional distress, then recovery would mean the person no longer experiences that level of distress.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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mental-health

You Don’t Really Care About Our Mental Health

Lawyers are a pretty up front bunch, and their feelings were made clear in a recent study by UNSW into lawyers’ perspectives on mental health & wellbeing programs in their firms. It’s really worth a read, providing an unvarnished view of how lawyers feel their firms are looking after their mental wellbeing. mental-health care
“(Firms are) talking the talk…but I think the problems are systemic and will not be fixed by vague employee assistance programs and ‘wellness’ initiatives,” said one respondent, a 32 year old female solicitor in a large firm.

While I applaud firms for making an effort to address mental illness, these initiatives just don’t seem to be effective when they’re ‘bolted on’. They’re regarded as an optional extra that you might take up if you’re not busy, or not committed to the ‘real work’. And frankly, who’s going to admit that?

There is of course an alternative. I believe the best way to embed good mental health practices into an organisation is to equip leaders with the skills to monitor the mental health of their team members and adjust the work intensity or structure when the early warning signs appear.

I’m not saying we train our leaders to be psychologists or counsellors. I’m saying let’s equip them to spot the danger signs and act appropriately before harm comes to the individual and the organisation.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Post-Holiday-Downers-ft image

Warning – Post Holiday Downers About!

A dear friend of mine called me two days ago. He said, ‘Peter, I haven’t been feeling too well (mentally). I think it’s because I’ve decreased my meds’. The interesting thing is, he’s not the only one that has expressed this. Maybe not in the same language, but the same kind of idea – stress, fatigue, exhaustion, “I need a holiday to recover from the holidays!”… that kind of thing. So what’s going on?
Post Holiday Downer
What’s happening is post-holiday-downers. No, it’s not a new diagnosis or symptom. It’s simply physics. We’ve pushed ourselves emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially onto the high of Christmas and New Year and now our bodies and psyches are returning us to our ‘normal’. But, physics being what they are, it demands that for every positive action there is an equal and opposite reaction – of the same impact. And that’s what people are noticing.

So, no need to panic. It doesn’t mean you are developing a mental illness. Or that you are relapsing. Quite probably, if you get plenty of rest and water, you will be back to your normal within a few days. In the meantime, don’t give your thoughts and emotions too much authority over you. No need to give them meaning and analyse them. Remember, your body is just doing what it needs to do, getting you back to normal. It all works beautifully. Just breath deeply, be patient and ride it out.

By the way, I’ve spoken to my friend since, and it wasn’t the meds it was his diabetes. With all the eating, partying and drinking, his diabetes had gone haywire. Makes sense.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

Managing-Work-Stress-Prior-to-Christmas

Managing Work Stress Prior to Christmas

It’s around about this time of year that many people in organisations look at their calendar and realise they’re on the downhill run to Christmas.

It’s a time when managers and HR professionals notice an increase in the number of employee complaints, performance issues, absenteeism and team conflict. In the counselling and psychology professions, Christmas / New Year is also when we see a sharp increase in the number of people reaching out for help.

Managing-Work-Stress-Prior-to-Christmas

So I thought it timely to explore some of the common challenges your staff may be facing during this time and how, as leaders, we can support our team members through it to help them enjoy their break and to welcome them back refreshed in 2015.

Financial pressures

For some people who are just keeping their head above water during the year, living month to month with a maxed out credit card, Christmas can be an anxious time. Many people worry about how they’ll give their family a nice Christmas experience with the associated cost of food, drinks and gifts.

Presence or absence of family

Extended families coming together over the Christmas holidays can be a source of stress, be it from arguments or conflict between family members, or a keenly felt absence of a family member. Quite often people feel dragged back into old family roles and dynamics that they have worked hard to distance themselves from and this can be very frustrating.

On the other hand, absence of family and friends is also an issue. Employees who are estranged from their family or have few friends outside work can feel isolated and despondent over the Christmas break as they’re left with their own thoughts and without their usual routines to distract them.

‘Wrapping things up before Christmas’

Christmas is one of those deadlines that seem tidy and appropriate, but unless you are in fact Santa Claus, can be fairly arbitrary. When clients, project managers and senior managers are all requesting a ‘pre Christmas’ deadline, it can certainly crunch the employees further along the value chain who then need to put in the extra hours.

General exhaustion

It’s no surprise that the pace of work these days is intense, and getting to the end of the work year can feel like crawling across the finish line of the Hawaiian Ironman. The realisation that after a week or so of rest, a person must back it up and do it all over again, can be overwhelming.

So given we now know this is going on for some people in our team, as leaders and as team members, how can we help?

3 things we can do for our staff and colleagues

1. Be on the lookout for warning signs

While some level of stress is normal – actually desirable for high performance – there is a point where it stops being ‘just stress’ and becomes something more. Symptoms like irritability, conflict with coworkers, angry outbursts, avoiding people or difficulty completing tasks, where these symptoms present for an extended period and are out of character for the individual, can indicate a mental illness.

2. Review workloads

Under-resourcing is one of the fundamental contributors to chronic stress and burnout in organisations – particularly those with a fast-paced, ‘just get it done’ culture. Leaders who see patterns of stress claims and absenteeism in parts of their business might look closer to see if the workload and resourcing are appropriate in those areas.

3. Say thanks

Send a personal email or better yet, sidle up to the person and let them know you appreciated their help this year and that you’re looking forward to working with them next year. Whether you’re a leader acknowledging a team member or a team member saying thanks to a colleague in a support department, it shows that we respect that person’s abilities and their contribution to the team. It doesn’t have to be a formal presentation or elaborate awards night – sometimes a quiet, genuine and personal thanks works better.

3 things we can we do for ourselves

As leaders, if we stay calm and unflappable when the pressure is on, our staff will follow our lead. And the things we can do at the end of the year to restore ourselves are the same things we can do throughout the year to remain resilient to the challenges that crop up.

1. Do what restores you

Is it reading a book? Listening to music? Throwing a party? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as they say. Try getting some regular exercise and quality sleep – both are proven ways to combat chronic stress and improve your mood.

2. See a counsellor or psychologist for some practical strategies

Say you have a challenging relationship with a family member, and you’ll be spending a bit of time with them over the Christmas break. And say you’re worried they might end up in a shallow grave under the mango tree at your hand. Well, a good counsellor or psychologist can help unravel the dynamic between you and that person and give you some strategies to resolve the issue or at least lessen the likelihood of being triggered.

3. Undertake some structured life planning

New Years resolutions are a great idea, but lots of people go about them the wrong way, and that’s why many are in tatters by the second week of January. Consider doing some structured life planning, where you set a goal for each domain of your life: career, family, relationship, artistic, spiritual, etc. Consider involving your partner and family in the process (and with meddling auntie now under the mango tree it should be easy). Set small, achievable and measurable goals that will help you build confidence and therefore momentum to tackle the bigger ones.

The concerning statistic that we’re hearing more and more these days is that 1 in 5 adult Australians suffers from a mental illness. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate in who it chooses and it can happen at any time. But there are things we can do to minimise the chances of it taking hold in our most valuable business asset – our people – and degrading creativity, productivity and happiness.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Screaming

Unlocking The Mysteries Of Workplace Madness – Part 2

Good mental health at work can be tricky. The workplace is a place where rules of behavior need to be observed. So, what room is there for madness at work? Is there any?

In Part 1 of our interview, Mary O’Hagan made the point that madness should be respected. But how? This comment in itself stretches some of the common (mis-) understandings on mental illness, or ‘Madness’ as Mary likes to call it.

In part 2 of our interview, Mary makes the following fascinating points:

  • Madness doesn’t turn you into a saint
  • How having a mental illness can shape you
  • Bringing mental illness into the workplace benefits your customers
  • How to talk to someone with a mental illness
  • Flexible supports are not specific to people with mental illness at work
  • Some accommodations important to people with a mental illness

What do you think? Is there a place for madness at work?

Would love to hear from you

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Mary O’Hagan

Unlocking The Mysteries Of Workplace Madness – Part 1 of 3

I love talking about mental health at work. In our Mental Health First Aid courses, I especially love talking to people about tips and strategies for dealing with a mental health emergency. So when I thought about interviewing Mary O’Hagan, I knew I had to make it happen! Mary brings a distinct flavor to mental illness or, as she likes to call it, ‘madness’. Her approach is easily aligned with the way we view mental health here at the Workplace Mental Health Institute (former Mental Health Recovery Institute). That’s why I feel that, if we are to unlock the mysteries of workplace madness, we need to listen to Mary.

For those of you who know Mary, she needs no introduction. She is a former National Mental Health Commissioner, author, and someone I consider a giant in the field of Mental Health Recovery. I have the utmost respect for Mary’s opinion and it’s an opinion the mental health field needs.

What you’ll get in this Part 1:

  • Hear a little of Mary’s fascinating journey
  • When it’s important you don’t listen to mental health experts
  • Get some real tips on mental health recovery at work
  • When madness is ok and why it deserves respect
  • What madness has to contribute to the workplace
  • How a mental illness can increase resilience at work
  • How the workplace can help people feel better

You can watch Part 1 of this interview here on Workplace Mental Health Institute on VIMEO also

We’ll be releasing Part 2 in a couple of days. Talk soon

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

Ten Essential Elements

10 Essential Elements of a Workplace Wellness Strategy

Ten Essential Element1 in 5 people are impacted by mental health problems (Read our discussion paper) every year in Australia. That means that at least 1 in 5 of your employees will either experiencing a full blown mental health crisis, or an unidentified one.

This is well known to impact on productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, workplace injuries and accidents, and team morale.

Not only that, but the expense of these problems to Australian businesses has been identified as up to $3.6 billion every year. The average psychological injury claim itself costs $250,000.

When compared to the tax on time and money, a business with a solid Workplace Wellness Strategy makes good financial and human sense.

Many businesses are now implementing a Workplace Wellness Strategy as part of, or alongside, their Workplace Health & Safety plan. But a Workplace Wellness Strategy doesn’t always come easily. What are the essential elements of a Workplace Wellness Strategy?


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This week we look at the first essential element……

Essential Element #1: EDUCATION

Education is absolutely vital, and is usually the first place to start.

A good Workplace Wellness strategy includes training in mental health and workplace wellness for all staff, as well as specialist education for leaders.

Traditionally, organisations have not made themselves responsible for the mental and emotional wellbeing of staff. In fact as a society, we have very poor mental health literacy. So before a Workplace Wellness Strategy can really be developed and implemented, organisations, and the individuals within them need to educate themselves about mental health.

The whole team, but especially the leaders, need to understand how the human brain works and what will hinder or promote wellness within the team. Gone are the days when bosses didn’t need to know anything about psychology. This generation has higher expectations of support from their leaders. Leaders have to be well prepared, in order to have the stamina necessary to meet the new expectations of their workers.

By providing education in mental health and workplace wellness, leaders of an organisation are also sending the message that this conversation is not only acceptable, but welcomed within the culture of the company.

But is education enough? We don’t think so. Stay tuned for the next essential element for your Workplace Wellness Strategy

 

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” Harvard President Derek Bok

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn