Tag Archives: Self-Care

The-Psychology-of-Fear

The Psychology of Fear: How Fear Harms Workplaces and People’s Lives

‘El miedo es gratis’ (Fear is free) – Old Spanish proverb.

Most people in Spain have grown up hearing that. Fear is free. What that means is that fear is free, as in, it doesn’t cost any money. But it turns out, they weren’t 100% right, were they? No, you don’t need to pay money to be afraid, but Fear,it turns out, is very costly. It has a high psychological cost, physical cost, and a financial cost, since, at the very least, it stops you from doing things and taking chances.

Today we see the whole world gripped by fear. A fear with a name but without a face. A fear that has been going on since the beginning of the year. A fear that has become imperative we get rid of immediately. Why? Because prolonged fear causes a type of stress that can become really hard to ditch.

THE ROLE OF FEAR

In psychology we see fear as a basic and ever-present emotion. A certain amount of fear is normal, even good for us. It helps us to survive, by having an inbuilt, rapid mechanism to detect danger, and therefore allow us to take action to prevent harm. It is the foundation of our fight or flight response.

The-Psychology-of-Fear

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THE PROBLEM WITH FEAR

The problem is that if our fear response goes into hyper drive, it can cause harm itself. It can paralyze us and stop us from taking actions that would be beneficial to our wellbeing. It begins to control us rather than serve us. And when fear is prolonged, the potential for serious mental distress in the form of mental disorder is greatly increased.

In mental health, we know that all mental illnesses are founded in, or at the very least, accompanied by, a large amount of fear. This means that when someone you love experiences mental health distress, of any kind and severity, you can be fairly certain that at some level, fear is involved. Fear may be lurking just under the surface, or it may permeate every aspect of their life and their decision making.But, how specifically?

HOW FEAR IMPACTS US

Decision Making – A fearful person cannot make good decisions, the decisions that they normally would make, because fear impairs and interrupts good cognitive function. For example, the research shows that when we are stressed, we are less likely to choose good healthy foods. So much for dieting when you’re afraid of being disliked! Another common response to fear is to delay making any decision, because we are too worried about what the consequences might be if we make the wrong one!

Fear

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself” – Franklin D Roosevelt

Risk Averse Bias – Importantly, fear also creates a bias in the way we interpret information. It leads us to focus too heavily on the risks, rather than making an objective analysis of all the facts of a situation. We can easily appreciate this in sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is a disorder where the person becomes fearful of dying, either of unseen microorganisms like bacteria, viruses or germs, or from physical accident, injury or misadventure. People with OCD are not able to make objective analyses of situations and have to be helped, through therapy, to change their association with fear of pathogens. In a work context, in organizations where there is fear, you see groups become risk averse, which is not helpful for growth and development, and sometimes causes the exact result that the executives were afraid of, and trying to avoid.

Problem Solving –It’s also well known that fear disrupts our capacity for problem solving. We become tunnel visioned on our main concern, rather than expanding our thinking to discover and consider a wide range of solutions. In fact, often people tend to oversimplify the problem and the solution to the problem. The solution is often emotional, rather than logical, and does not stand up to scrutiny.

Undermining success – Fear not only impairs our capacity to solve problems and to make good, effective decisions, it also boycotts our chances for success in life. For example, ever heard of the term ‘fear of failure’? Well, we now understand this differently.We now know that often, people that say that they are afraid of failure, when they dig in deeper and explore it, they are also fearful of succeeding. How is that possible? How can anyone be afraid of succeeding? Simple, think of your life right now, as it is. If you were 100% successful and achieved amazing dreams and goals, how many of the people that are around you now, would still like you then? Or would they be envious? For most people, if they were to significantly improve their life, fear would need to take a back seat.

Can you see why fear would not always be useful in a work context?

HINDSIGHT 2020

Today, as a collective, we are experiencing a new kind of fear, which is unique in a sense. This is a fear that is being drummed up, encouraged by governments, some scientists, and the media. Though it may not be the intention, we are reminded to be fearful of others, and fearful for our safety. These reminders to be afraid are conveyed in somewhat subtle ways by the masks we must wear in many places, the visual signs we see alerting us to social distance, the announcements and conversations we hear, and in many other indirect ways. There doesn’t seem to be a reprieve from these (sometimes) subtle, yet constant reminders.

Whether it is warranted or not, is not the question here. The fact remains that we know that fear causes stress, and that long term stress causes an untold number of physical and psychological illnesses.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 120000 people die every year as a direct result of workplace stress. Chronic stress is also linked to the 6 leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, respiratory deaths, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.

The idea that fear causes physical damage is not new knowledge. In fact, there’s a lovely Sufi story that illustrates the harm fear brings:

“A caravan leader in the middle of the desert crossed the plague cloud on his way. – Where are you going like that, asked the chief? – To Baghdad! I have a thousand lives to take, the plague replied without stopping! A few weeks later, the leader of the caravan again crossed the cloud of plague. – ‘Hey!’, said the head of the caravan, ‘I’m back from Baghdad! It was not a thousand but ten thousand people that you took away!’ – ‘I only killed a thousand people as I was ordered’, retorted the plague! ‘The others were scared to death!’”

Being literally scared to death may sound a bit extreme, but it brings us to an interesting phenomenon that was discovered in the 1800’s, called ‘Voodoo Death’.

“VOODOO” DEATH

Voodoo death is a sudden, unexplained death resulting from spells, sorcery, or curse. From a psychological perspective we may explain it as resulting from belief in the power of those spells, sorcery or curses.

In his article ´Voodoo Death´, Walter Bradford Cannon shares numerous examples from traditional cultures, where there have been instances of death observed in these conditions:

  • In the Tupinambas Indians of South America, there have been cases observed of fright induced death, following the prediction or condemnation by a chief or medicine man with the reputation of having supernatural power.
voodoo-death-doll
  • In Brown´s New Zealand and its Aborigines, there is an account of a Maori woman. who, having eaten some fruit, was told that it had been taken from a tabooed place. She exclaimed that the sanctity of the chief had been profaned, and that his spirit would kill her. This incident occurred in the afternoon; the next day about 12 o’clock she was dead.
  • Australian University Professors have observed that from time to time the natives of the Australian bush do die as a result of a bone being pointed at them, and that such death may not be associated with any of the ordinary lethal injuries.

In today’s terms we may not call it ‘Voodoo Death’ anymore, but we have studied the science, and we now have good evidence for what we now call Somatoform Disorders, and the Nocebo Effect. We can categorically say that fear can, and does injure, harm and, in the most extreme cases, kill.It can be directly, as in the case of the examples above, or indirectly, as in the case of people believing themselves sick and dying of iatrogenesis or side effects of treatment.

THE NOCEBO EFFECT

Almost everyone has heard of the placebo effect. We see the placebo effect when people have a positive improvement in response to a substance, idea, thought or situation, simply because they believe it to be ‘true’ but without it actually having any active ingredient or proof. Their mind, the unconscious part, has taken control of the body and made it respond ‘as if’ the substance or idea is a matter of fact.

The placebo effect is the most studied effect in the history of science since it’s used as the standard to produce relatively safe medicines. What most people don’t know so well is its close cousin – the nocebo effect. That’s where a person believes something benign is actually malignant to them. In this case, the person starts feeling all the symptoms and often displaying the signs of the particular ailment they believe they have, although they don’t have it. For example, ever googled some kind of strange illness and then you start feeling some of the symptoms explained? How did that happen? Well, you tapped into your nocebo. Of course, most people stop just in time of making themselves actually sick, or do they?

Building-Resilience-at-Workplace
Building Resilience at Workplace course

HEADING INTO 2021

Think of this interesting and dangerous situation during the Coronavirus situation: the media actively selling fear, the government promoting fear to get people to follow their directions, the doctors panicking trying to understand a new threat and an increased influx of new patients, and the patients themselves in a state of panic. This is a situation of compounded fear. Fear at every level. What do you think will be the results of this heightened level of fear? From purely a psychological perspective, that’s a PERFECT STORM for ill health in the form of somatoform disorders, mental disorders,iatrogenic deaths and suicide.

So, it is vital we learn to identify when fear is building in us and learn how to handle it as quickly as possible. It can save our lives and that of our loved ones.

6 Things You Can Do That Will Immediately Neutralize The Fear In You

Advanced-Resilience-Skills
  1. STOP, or severely limit, watching the news. It’s a horror movie!
  2. STOP believing unreliable sources that have a vested interest in selling you fear AND have lied to you in the past (politicians, media, etc) when in doubt, ‘follow the money’.
  3. STOP ruminating – it means stop entertaining negative, fear inducing, thoughts. Get busy with another, better thought or activity. Ie watch a comedy, go and play, etc
  4. START exercising – it releases yummy endorphins and makes you happy. Start with some kind of easy exercise
  5. START spending time every day to notice all the things you do have that we usually take for granted (ie clean water out of a tap, hot showers, some of your loved ones ;), the warm and comfy bed you get into at night, etc)
  6. START eating healthy. What we eat does make a difference. The wrong kind of food, or the wrong amounts, can tax our system and produce chemical anxiety. Ie coffee, capsicums, iceberg lettuce, oranges, etc. Every body is different so it is a matter of paying attention to what your body says and experimenting.

This article was first published here

Worklife eMag - Fear Factor
Get-people-moving

10 Essential Elements of a Workplace Wellness Strategy – Get People Moving

As Steve Wozniak, the cofounder of Apple, said to me“Take care of your employee’s mental health. It’s a high priority. You’re going to get better performance. Everybody knows that”. And it’s true, when you take care of your employees mental health, businesses perform better. In short, a happy employee is a productive employee.

The good news is that, while happiness is mostly up to the individual, individuals are socially driven. Good environments with good habits set up the stage for individual and collective happiness. Which brings me to element number two – Get People Moving.

Essential Element #2: GET PEOPLE MOVING

What is Get People Moving about? Well, it is about improving the general fitness of individuals. And the number one thing we can do to improve that, is to help people get off their behinds, stand up, and get moving.

Get-people-moving

Let’s face it, sitting is the new smoking. It’s REALLY bad for you. And, on top of that, it wrecks the look of the bottom half of your body through muscle and organ atrophy (due to lack of exercise and compression) – Oh! You knew that? I figured you did but often we need a reminder. Other times we just need a kick up the butt, but we avoid getting one because we are sitting down (joke lol).

Joking aside, the question to ask is – How can we get more movement into what we do every day? A company I heard of moved the photocopiers back into a room so people would have to get up and walk to get their printing from time to time. I’ve heard that at Zappos, every 20 minutes or so loud music goes off, people get up and start dancing. What are you willing to do?

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I’ve also heard that many of the world’s most successful leaders and business owners have standing desks with a slow moving treadmill under them. Not only does this help their physical and mental health but it also helps ideas to flow.

Look, I get it, you know this stuff. Heck, you might even be the one telling others all about it! But, does that mean you are doing it? Knowing is one thing, doing is another. But it doesn’t have to be a huge effort. Sometimes the biggest difference is made by smallest and simplest change.

What small change can you make today that will bring the most results to your wellbeing?

By the way, we interviewed Jenny and Craig recently on the topic of physical and mental wellness. They are a brilliant couple that have a great approach to this. You can watch the video of the interview here – https://youtu.be/z0WXG-MQZyE

Our next essential element of a workplace wellness strategy will be the Smiling Policy.

Talk soon!

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter Diaz profile

Peter 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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Grief-and-Loss

4 Steps to navigate grief and loss amidst COVID-19

As COVID-19 has become a household word across the world over the last month, many of us find ourselves in uncertain territory. We are grieving the familiar bedrock of our lives like office time, schedules, in person meetings, and social activities. With children home from school, self-quarantines in place in much of the world, and restricted travel we are all navigating a new normal.

As we walk this unfamiliar path, perhaps fear, questions, and doubt are trying to overtake familiar landmarks like balance, trust, confidence and faith that things will all work out.

You are not alone. Most of the world can resonate with feeling anxious or uncertain, or walking through the pain of loss. Loss of job, routine, finances, stability, or even loved ones. But, believe it or not, there is hope and help despite how hard things might look in this moment. You can find your way again by taking these steps when your world feels out of control.

Step 1. Establish your mindset

It’s said that mindset is everything. You would never begin a journey without knowing where you are hoping to end up. In the same way, when we are in uncertain times, we need to have a mindset that will withstand the trial.

Grief-and-Loss
4 Steps to navigate grief and loss amidst COVID-19

One way to combat a negative attitude that often accompanies hardship is to choose a centering thought. Be intentional and choose something that is meaningful to you like a favorite expression, a significant truth, a motivational quotation, or a faith-based truth. Make it your own and refer to it often. Put it on your emails, social media, or say it in conversations to keep it in the forefront of your mind. When we choose a mindset that is framed in the positive it help us avoid getting stranded on the dark path of negativity.

Step 2. Determine your non-negotiables

In a crisis, instead of constantly reacting to your circumstances, a bit of proactive planning will give you a head start. Stay focused by creating a list of your non-negotiables. Think about things like physical, emotional, mental, and soul care. Then ask yourself a few questions: What’s important to me? What routines will I try to keep no matter what? What can’t I live without? What won’t I tolerate? What guidelines would I like people to follow?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, make a realistic list of what you need. Whether it’s diet, exercise, sleep habits, regular social activities, faith involvement, children’s bedtimes/schedules, or working hours, you get to decide how you’re going to navigate your hard place. Once you’ve made your choices, be sure to communicate your needs to others so they can help you take care of yourself in this way.

If you don’t determine what your absolutes are, they will be determined for you. So be proactive!

Step 3. Ask for Help

In researching my two books, Alongside and Hope in the Hard Places, I surveyed hundreds of people who had faced all manner of loss, grief and hardship and asked what their greatest struggle was during that time. A huge percentage said that although they were lonely, overwhelmed, depressed, hopeless or afraid, it was very difficult to ask for or accept help.

Pride, shame, embarrassment, or guilt are significant roadblocks that stand in the way of hurting people getting the help they need. But it’s important to understand that being in need is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of being human!

Many people want to help and when we allow them to, we give them a chance to feel good in an uncertain time. Trying to handle everything on our own will burn us out. But in times of uncertainty, we have a chance to see the best, and be the best, in terms of our relationships.

Step 4. Stay engaged with others

There are many ways you, too, can be a source of help and comfort to those around you. Try one of these ideas to encourage and help others while maintaining your relationships:

  • Call a friend and ask how they’re doing, giving ample time to listen.
  • Have coffee dates or happy hour with friends or family by Facetime or video conference.
  • Change your regular book club or study group to phone or video, and take a moment to share your highs and lows with each other.
  • Download a video sharing app for your phone and use short video messages to stay in touch with groups of friends or colleagues.
  • Order a box of cards online and take time to write one note of encouragement per day to someone you care about.
  • Read an uplifting book at the same time as a friend and make a weekly phone date to discuss it.
  • Host a virtual dinner party where you and your friends make the same thing at your own homes and then sit down to eat together online.
  • Meet friends for take-out and maintain social distance by eating and chatting in your parked cars next to each other! (if your local authorities allow you of course!)

These practical steps are a way to set your course toward positivity and caring for yourself despite the tumultuous world circumstances. Even amid grief and loss you’re facing today, you can walk through the next days and months with hope, purpose and clarity.

Sarah-Beckman

Sarah Beckman

Speaker, Pastor, and Bestselling Author of Alongside and Hope in the Hard Places

This article was first published on WorkLife CoronaVirus Edition

Bullying-WMHI-blog-header

5 More Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying

You may not think of your office as a place where bullying occurs, but believe it or not, this kind of interpersonal conflict happens in places other than just the schoolyard.

In fact,

research has shown that as many as 1 in 4 people report that they have experienced workplace bullying firsthand.

Unfortunately, workplace bullying often goes under the radar. Why? First of all, it’s not always as obvious as the overt name-calling, shoving, and teasing that we have come to associate with made-for-TV bullies. Secondly, bullying can be embarrassing: a team member who is being bullied may not want to talk about it for fear of looking weak. He or she may also feel pressure to avoid ‘dobbing in’ a coworker, or becoming the target of the bully if they step in on someone’s behalf.

But workplace bullying can and should be addressed by managers in any business or company. In the work environment, bullying tends to be a long, slow, and progressive process, whereby the perpetrator emotionally and psychologically manipulates his or her target over time. This can lead to serious problems with an overall workplace environment and may even contribute to lost productivity, increased errors, and other issues that are common with a distracted and unhappy team member (not to mention a worst-case scenario in which companies are held legally liable for failing to protect an employee against bullying).

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self-assessment to find out.

WMHI Blog – 5 More Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying

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So, the first step in putting an end to workplace bullying in your company is to learn how to tell if, when, and where it’s happening. Here are 5 subtle signals that your workplace environment may be home to some bullying:

  1. Frequent use of the blame game.

Is there a person on your team who seems to always have an excuse for his or her performance? Does he or she frequently point fingers at someone else, using another person as a scapegoat? Responsibility has to lie somewhere: if someone is unwilling to take personal responsibility for their own actions or inactions, then chances are they’re attempting to unfairly shift that responsibility to someone else.

  1. Minimising the thoughts, contributions, and feelings of others.

Having a patronising attitude toward someone is a subtle way of putting that person down and making him or her feel victimised. A team member who appears to make fun of, minimise, undermine, or discredit someone’s ideas or needs (especially on a consistent basis) could be bullying. They maylaugh derisively at someone’s thoughts or ideas; or physically disengage in communication by turning away and changing topic drastically.

  1. Deceit and dishonesty.

We all tell white lies from time to time. But if a person has a pattern of frequently lying, raising false hopes, or saying they’ll do something and then failing to follow through, then this could be a sign that he or she is trying to take advantage of the people around him or her.

  1. Intentional isolation by way of ignoring or excluding someone.

A sensation of “us versus them” can be seriously detrimental to the health and unity of a company. Team members may achieve this by purposefully not inviting someone to a work event or failing to include them in pertinent discussions, meetings, or projects. Purposefully underusing a team member or persistently delegating undesirable tasks to him or her (especially if they fall within many people’s job descriptions) can also be seen as an attempt for separation.

An example of this is, ‘ghosting’, where the bully will ignore a team member’s attempts to communicate for legitimate work reasons, while they acknowledge other people’s communication that they consider more important. While this practice is, unfortunately, widely tolerated in Australia, it is, nonetheless, damaging.

  1. Excessive flattery.

Going overboard on compliments and flattery is disingenuous at best; at worst itcan be a form of manipulation, persuading the target to check for the flatterer’s approval on any decisions or action. It can also be used as a prelude to more overt bullying, encouraging a person let their guard down, therefore becoming easier to manipulate.

The best bullies tend to be very smooth operators, able to hide their bullying well, and will leave just enough wiggle room to claim their good intentions are being misconstrued, in the event they’re called out. The best defense against bullies is education and awareness.  When people are aware of the signs, it becomes harder for the bully to operate freely.

Keep in mind that workplace bullying can happen at any level and in any direction within your company. Everyone, from senior level executives all the way to the newest team members should be held to the same standards that are necessary to create a positive and healthy work environment.

To your mental health,

– Peter Diaz

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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Peter Diaz-with-Lucas

A dummy in each hand and one in the mouth – values and the smart manager

Today I’m going to write a different type of blog. Stay with me. I had to share. This morning as I reached into my pocket I felt a weird, clunky thing. I didn’t know what it was but then it hit me, a dummy! My son’s dummy (“pacifier” for our international audience) How cute. It put a smile in my heart. I remembered that my son, Lucas, who is just a little over 2 years old, this morning had lots of dummies. Three to be precise. He had a dummy in each hand and one in his mouth. This morning he had to have all the dummies he could find. I found it interesting because he wasn’t distressed. So, I asked myself, why? and it dawned on me, ‘he just feels good with them’. He feels safe. But not just any kind of safe. These dummies make him feel safe emotionally. So much so that now, he treasures these dummies. He obviously doesn’t need that many dummies but he appreciates them for what he feels they give him. Safety, peace, balance. Now, obviously the dummies don’t give him these feelings, he creates them out of association. And as a result, he also now feels grateful for the dummies. Lucas VALUES his dummies because, unknowingly, he values how they make him feel.


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Now I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of dummies for babies and children – this isn’t a parenting blog. But it made me think – what about us? Grown ups? Are we any different? Or similar? When most people think of work, their job, how do they feel? Most don’t look forward to going to work. Many even get anxious about going to work, like I did for many years. Why? If we let little people’s experience teach us, it’s because we have not linked the fulfillment of our values with what we do. We don’t think they are linked.

The smart manager will pay attention now. When people feel their values are being met in what they do, they become passionate. They are at peace with themselves. Happy. In short, it’s good for their mental health. Makes sense, right? So why isn’t this happening everywhere? Why aren’t managers helping people link their values to what they do? This is going to make them mentally healthy and more valuable employees, right?

The problem is, most managers don’t know this, and if they do, they don’t know where to start. The values conversation has been relegated to something the company does every couple of years that doesn’t mean much to anyone else but the leadership team. And it’s only a conversation about the company values, not the individual employee’s personal values. That’s what we need to change. We need to make values relevant to all our employees. We need to help them see how the values of the company relate to their individual values. We need to meaningfully engage them in the process of clarifying their own values, the values of the team and the values of the company. And then, the effective leader, will speak of them often. Regularly. Because these values have become your ‘why we do things the way we do around here’.

That makes for good mental health.

By the way, Lucas held onto the dummies until we arrived to childcare. And when we arrive he knows they go in his bag, where he can get them anytime he wants. But he’s usually having too much fun to think about them through the day. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had as much fun at our workplaces as kids do at daycare?

PS if you want help to start a mentally healthy values conversation in your workplace, give me a call and I’ll get my team onto it.

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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Bullying in the workplace

Beware Declaring War on Bullying

A common mistake people make, especially at work, is to assume that it’s ‘others’ who are being a bully. And that bullying is an abuse of power by some other people more powerful than I. But this is self deceit. Many bullies don’t realise they are being a bully. It’s like having snot in the middle of your face, you are usually the last person to find out, right?

The same with acting like a bully. Ask yourself, ‘can I think of times when I’ve acted like a bully?’ before you answer rashly, think about this ‘do you like to be right?’ if you are not right, does it upset you? do you like rules? (but only your rules!)’ then it’s quite probable that, at times, you may have acted as a bully to others, even if you didn’t mean to.

Or think about it this way, have you ever taken it out on someone else? and you knew it wasn’t their fault but you had a go at them anyway? and what’s more, did you secretly enjoy it? (even if later you felt guilty about it) I think most of us have. By the way most people do. It’s not that we are bad people, it’s that we all have the potential to try to force our thoughts, actions and will onto someone else. It’s usually a response to our own fears and uncertainties.


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One of the common scenarios we see in workplaces goes like this – someone doesn’t agree with a colleagues’ idea, opinion, or direction. For some reason, they feel it’s personal. They feel hurt, upset, disappointed, or frustrated. Now they start to see their colleague differently. As a evil, bad, some kind of bitch or bastard. A villain. And it’s ok to stop perpetrators, right? Don’t we have a moral obligation to stop them? …and the reasons for judging, labelling and attacking keep coming.

By the way, this is completely normal and to be expected when you have a group of people coming together to work on something. But if the person is not aware of what is going on, it may not be too long before they start to feel they are being bullied or victimised. And in response, they launch an all out attack on the colleague. Does this sound at all familiar? Now who is doing the bullying in this scenario? The wise person will catch themselves in this.

We need to be careful before we react, to make sure that we ourselves have not become a bully in response. This means a certain level of self awareness and self honesty is required. Rather than declare war on bullying, check to make sure you are responding with compassion, kindness, understanding and assertion, not aggression.

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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When-is-the-right-time

When is the right time to talk about suicide?

It’s a beautiful morning. Its cold outside but the sun is shining. I’m sitting in a café across from the water starting my work day. And it hits me, today 8 people in Australia will take their own life. 8 people will feel so desperate, so alone, so hopeless, they will take drastic action to end their life deliberately.

I don’t mean to startle you. In fact, we had this conversation in our team just yesterday. You see, we’re developing our online suicide prevention course, and the question was, how do we help people to see how important, how urgent this is, without scaring people? How do we help people to look at something that so often we as a society don’t want to look at or think about? How do we make it OK to talk about suicide, to learn about suicide?

I think the time for downplaying it has ended. In Australia we now have a situation where more people die each day from suicide than through road accidents. Let that sink in. More people deliberately take their own life, than by accident on the road. And 6 of those will be men. What is going on for men? Well there are many and complex issues, which I won’t go into right now, that’s for another article.


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You know we’ve seen increasing rates of suicide over the last few years, despite the growing focus on mental health issues. How can that be? Well, there are a number of factors, but one thing I think is important to realise is that much of the focus has been on ‘awareness campaigns’. Now that is a good start, and in many cases, where there is a big taboo that is the best place to start – just to get people talking about mental health is an improvement. But if we really want to make a difference it can’t end there. People need real skills, they need to know what to watch for in their colleagues and friends, and they need to know what to do, how to respond.

If we are looking to make a difference in the lives of Australians (and we are), workplaces are a great place to start, as we spend so much of our lives at work, hours at a time, day after day with the same people by our side.

But here I have a frustration too. My frustration is that so many workplaces mean to equip their staff in this area. They want to give them those skills, they want to make a difference to their staff. But with all the competing priorities and demands, mental health training often gets left for later. But I come back to my initial statement. Today 8 people will take their life, tomorrow another 8 people, and the day after that, and the day after that. Every day that we put off mental health training til ‘the next quarter’, or ‘after the restructure’, or ‘when Bob gets back from leave’, is another day that we are at risk of losing a valued colleague, a good friend. Simply because someone didn’t have the training, didn’t notice the warning signs, or didn’t know what to do.

And I get it, I’ve been in senior management positions for a while now. There are competing demands. It’s the reality of business. But if you knew that someone in your team was going to attempt to take their life, would that suddenly make it more urgent? It is unfortunate that so many groups we train, have decided to implement some mental health education AFTER there has been a crisis like this. It’s sad. I just wish they would do it earlier. Do it now. It’s not unusual to have 80% of the room know someone who has taken their life. And yet we don’t hear about it. Part of that is because of the way suicide is reported, but also I think, we don’t want to hear about it. Because we feel helpless, we don’t know what to do. This is where just a little bit of training can make all the difference. I cant count the number of times that someone has come up to us after training, to let us know they used one or some of the techniques we taught them, and that it made such a big difference in the lives of their friend/colleague/family member.

Well, that’s my thoughts for today. I hope it hasn’t been too much of a downer for you. Suicide is a serious matter, and we need to act, we need to do something. But life is meant to be enjoyed too. So As I said, it’s a beautiful day today. I’m going to enjoy it, be grateful for the simple things like the sunshine on the water. The fresh clean water in my glass. And keep working to get the message out there.

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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mental-health-brain

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.

“(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?

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

Crazy-work

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.

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