We were honoured to supply content for Mental Health Week at a branch of a global corporation in Slovakia. We had 5 worskhops focused at Burnout, Depression, Addiction, Anxiety and Red Flags - how to find out my team member has a problem. We are thrilled by the attention of the audience and approach of the management. We were able to bust some myths common for mental health diseases. Here is a selection of the most traditional ones:
1. The prevalence of addiction is higher for people with lower IQ.
2. The most prescribed medication in the world is Aspirin.
3. Work addicition has completely different roots than heroin addiction.
4. Depression is caused by self-pity primarily.
5. One can cure from depression by one-self.
6. Stress is bad and you need to get rid of it.
7. The largest sourse of stress is the outside world and signals from out there.
8. At panic attack, one can pass out, loose conscience, stop breathing and die.
9. When people talk about suicide, you should not take it seriously.
10. Mental diseases are caused by weak will, you need to simply overcome them, only weak people are mentally ill.
11. Most of mental diseases are really incurable.
12. The medication used for mental illnesses change the personality of the patient.
13. I know exactly how I behave and why.
14. The most crucial parameter causing performance at work is target orientation.
15. If there is someone wierd in my team, I should send the person to see a psychologist.
We scared the unicorn and gave an honest and simple picture of realilty:
1. Intelligence has absolutely nothing to do with predisposition for addicitons.
2. The most purchased medication in 2017 worldwide was Xanax, which surpresses anxiety.
3. Addictions - both to Substance (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs) and to Other-than-Substances (workhoholism, sport, internet, gambling, food, relationships) always cover a need and share basically the same diganostics and treatment.
4. Depression is a serious illness harmful for the mental and physical well-being of anyone. It is not caused by self-pity but biochemical inbalance of the brain. Self-pity may be rather the cause than the reason for depression.
5. Noone can cure oneself from depression all by oneself.
6. Stress may be categorized into EU Stress - the positive stress, which helps us be active, be excited about new things and challenges; and DI Stress - the agressive stress, which causes anxiety. Without EU Stress and DI Stress, we would be completely unable to function as humans and members of society.
7. The most harmful stress is emotional stress - the stress caused by the interpretation of a situation, not by the situation itself. The interpretation often has almost no connection to the situation itself.
8. You cannot die from anxiety. Anxiety is a natural part of life which is designed to achieve survival in a stressful environment and is accompanied by noradrenalin secretion. It causes flight, fight or freeze. It enables survival, it does not cause attentuation or death.
9. Any remark about suicide needs to be taken very seriously - it is an important call for help, which needs to be heard, the person needs to be soothed and positively motivated to search for professional help.
10. Every fourth person faces a mental health issue. It has nothing to do with character, will, weakness or power. In some professions packed with strong characters (The Wall Street), the prevalence of mental illness is even higher than average.
11. Every mental illness is curable.
12. Medication in correct doses and prescribed based on correct diagnosis do not change the personality or charateristics of the patient. To the contrary, they help the patient remain the same. On the other hand, refusing medication when it is needed causes changes of personality which is often irreversible.
13. There are a lot of processes in our old brains which are completely unconscious. Emotions appear by themselves, we are able to work with them after they have appeared. It is true that an emotion may be also created as a consequence of a thought, however, that though had been influenced by another emotion, which had come before that thought. Emotions help us to not think all the time. If we stop surpressing emotions but start to accept them, we will find out much more about how and why we behave as we do. Without working with our emotions, we will not able to gain almost any relevant knowledge about our behavior - even if we do gain some information, the data will be misled by our emotions and beliefs.
14. The most important parameter causing performance is feeling safe. Feeling safe, accepted, recognized, free to make mistakes and propose new ideas, may be provided not only by individuals, but by an environment as well - similarily to home environment, which exceeds the personalities of the parents themselves. If we do not feel safe, we have to create the feeling of safety by ourselves and we will spend substantial amounts of energy to achieve the feeling. The most effective tool to increase performance at work is creating an environment, where people feel safe.
15. The most important red flag indicating that there is something wrong going on in my team is the change of behaviour or mood of an individual. In order to be able to recognize that a change is on the way, I have to be in a relationship with the person so that I am able to sense the change. Changes to ability to concentrate, weird absences, and worsening of relationships may indicate a potential problem. However, simple symptom identification does not work for mental diseases. A cheerful person happy without an abvious reason, may be addicted to cocain, in reality. The assessment of the degree of cheerfullness is almost impossible unless you have a relationship with that particular cheerful person. If you lead a team, you need to create a safe environment. If you see an intuitivelly wierd change of behaviour or mood, you should express acceptance, support and motivate the person for a talk with a psychologist. To motivate someone means to understand, feel that person's emotion, not to judge, not to be the clever jerk who knows everything, to leave the freedom up to the other to solve the problem by oneself, and to support the person by helping him/her - if he/she wants the help. Manipulation or force will not work.
author: Andrej Vršanský