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This Years Mental Illness Awareness Week 2019 For Executives And Professionals

Silver Hill Hospital

Life as a well established professional and executive is not always easy. As some may think that achieving a “high status” will lead to a positive end goal at times it can lead to developing a mental health disorder along the way. Societal stigma’s often put these professionals under pressure to meet the expectations of the public and the people they serve. This stigma perceives high status individuals as people who “have it all” and that because of their success they don’t have to worry about life challenges or stress. This unfortunately leads to professionals hiding or masking their illnesses because of their fear of going against the stigma. It is only when the problem stays hidden for too long that depression, anxiety, or in extreme cases, suicides or accidental overdose deaths can occur.

Professionals and executives are no different than the average person in society. That is why it is important to acknowledge that mental illnesses can affect them too. In light of Mental Illness Awareness week, Silver Hill Hospital wants to share with those who are experiencing doubt or the pressures of success that help is always available. We strive to help reduce the stigma associated with high status and achievement and to provide help to those who are struggling in silence find their voice to get the help they need. Here’s what you should know about this year’s Mental Illness Awareness week 2019 for executives and professionals:

The stigma around mental health in executives and professionals

“Executives and professionals and other high-achieving people usually reach that point of success by managing large groups of people. And a lot of times that happens at the expense of their managing their own needs and the needs of their family.” – Samuel A. Ball, PH.D., Director Of Psychology & Executive Programs, Silver Hill Hospital

Identifying a mental health or substance use problem among individuals who are very successful can be very challenging. These individuals are often perceived to be in control of their lives and their careers and lead others to believe that they are healthy and not in need of  help. This false assumption leaves us to neglect what goes on behind closed doors, which makes it harder to recognize problematic signs if these individuals are in distress. If they are in distress, these individuals will not come forth to speak about their struggles and issues pertaining to their mental health because they think it’s out of character. It is important to be aware that professionals and executives are on the other side of the fence where mental illnesses are viewed as negative. They don’t want to openly go against the stigma that revolves around mental health issues.

High executives and professionals often view themselves as strong problem solvers and that they are better equipped to deal with their problems than the average person. They believe that if they display any signs of weakness their reputation will be at stake. Most executives and professionals believe that if they open up about having a mental illness that they will lose their business, their status and or job. They also believe that they will lose more than what they will gain from treatment. This then often leads high executives and professionals to substances and/or alcohol to cope with their mental illnesses.

Unfortunately this only makes the problem worse by prolonging treatment. The severity of what could happen if the problem stays hidden too long can represent a crisis for the individual, family and work colleagues which none are prepared to manage. At this point the symptoms and risks of the high status individual would exceed what can be treated safely and effectively through outpatient therapy. More intensive treatment would then be needed to save the individuals life in the long term.

Recognizing these signs so that help can be administered before it gets to the point where intensive treatment is required is important. Being aware of these signs can help lead someone to find the help they need and to talk about their mental health without judgement.

Here are the signs of someone struggling with a mental disorder in the workplace:

  • Frequent or prolonged absences from work, usually without notification
  • Frequent, sometimes lengthy, trips to the bathroom or other areas where drugs could be stashed and/or consumed
  • “Roller-coaster” work performance, swinging up and down between high and low productivity
  • Common tasks are requiring greater effort, taking more time, seem to be more difficult, or causing the person more problems than they used to
  • Personal relations with co-workers are breaking down; the person is experiencing more frequent flare-ups, arguments, criticisms and bad feelings
  • Unexplained deterioration in personal appearance and hygiene
  • Other workers are commenting on, or complaining about, the person’s attitude and behavior
  • Excessive numbers of “sick days” without proper medical leave, with flimsy excuses and explanations
  • Frequent lateness or missed appointment times, production deadlines and meetings
  • More than usual numbers of mistakes due to inattention, poor judgment and bad decisions
  • Confusion, memory loss, and difficulty concentrating or recalling details and instructions
  • Unwilling to take responsibility and now blames others for their own errors, misunderstandings, lapses in judgment and missed quotas or deadlines
  • Personality changes such as mood swings, anxiety, depression, lack of impulse control, odd gestures, seeking isolation or to be “left alone”, and especially, any expression of suicidal thoughts or intentions

Reducing the stigma for mental illnesses

A stigma is often fueled by lack of awareness and inaccurate information.”

Society still shows resistance to the idea that mental illnesses can develop and that someone affected by it is perceived as weak or lacking will power. This perception is often viewed as someone ‘going through a phase’ while dismissing how serious it actually can be. This can be tough in the workplace, causing fear of stereotyping and discrimination. 

As stubborn as these stigmas can be, we need to continue to improve stressful work environments for the affected individuals with mental health issues. Ultimately, repetition is key in order to reduce the stigma so that we can continue spreading awareness and encourage safe havens at work for people dealing with a mental health disorder.

Studies from the CDC show that poor mental health and stress can negatively affect an employee’s:

  • Productivity and performance
  • Engagement with one’s work
  • Communication with colleagues
  • Physical capability and daily functioning

According to the CDC the costs for treating people with both mental health disorders and other physical conditions are 2 to 3 times higher than for those without co-occurring illnesses. By addressing mental health issues in the workplace, employers can reduce health care costs for their businesses and employees. Here are ways to reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace:

  1. Make mental health self-assessment tools available to all employees.
  2. Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in employees on their team so that they can guide to medical professionals if need be.
  3. Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress. Corporations are always looking out for the best intentions of their customers by listening to them. The same concept applies within the company
  4. Don’t label people because of their mental health issues. Verbiage is crucial because discrimination and offense might be taken if you say “he or she bi polar” versus “He or she has a bi-polar disorder”.
  5. Don’t be afraid of your coworkers if they are displaying unusual behavior. Provide support and reassurance when you know someone is having difficulty managing their mental illness.
  6. Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques. Executives and professionals normally discuss anxiety and self doubt as one of the top concerns when struggling with their mental health.

Barriers for a professional and executive to get treatment

“When an executive or professional’s mental health or substance use reaches a point of crisis, taking some time away from work can be an essential first step to getting better.” – Silver Hill Hospital

It seems easy to just admit the problem and to receive treatment. However, there are many barriers to treatment for an executive and professional. These barriers include:

  • Family/Friends
  • Colleagues
  • Judgement from others
  • Discrimination/Stereotypes

As mentioned earlier, the mental health stigma prevents high status individuals from finding the help they need. This barrier extends to colleagues, friends and family members who might also unintentionally create barriers to treatment. It is because of the stigma that they believe their friend or loved one can handle anything on their own. Family and friends often ignore or think that they are helping their loved one by hiding the fact that they are abusing substances or heavy drinking. They confuse this heightened stress as a “phase” or something temporary that will pass. But in fact, it actually worsens the problem in the long run if an addiction develops or a suicide occurs.

The point is, if you see the signs or know that your friend or loved one is having a hard time, you need to talk to them. Show them that help is readily available. The workplace can be mentally draining and very stressful. Most executives and individuals believe discrimination, sterotypes and judgement from others in the workplace will occur if they speak up. But, for their own protection there are laws in place that protect you from discrimination and unfair practices on the job. Don’t let these negative stereotypes or discriminations stop you from getting the help you or your loved one needs. Taking some time away from work can be an essential first step to getting better.

Executives and professionals can find help here at Silver Hill Hospital

“The Steward House at Silver Hill Hospital is different in that it has a much greater emphasis on intensive professional treatment delivered by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors who are delivering research proven psychotherapies and effective medications.”– Samuel A. Ball, PH.D., Director Of Psychology & Executive Programs

It is important for executives and professionals to know that they can find help here at Silver Hill Hospital. At The Steward House, the focus is specifically on executives and professionals and their unique issues. Through our strength-based treatment approach you will discover yourself and restore the coping skills and personal strengths necessary for long-term recovery and wellness. Our intensive therapy is free from major stressors and triggers in a compassionate environment that is designed for you and your needs. Although this means time away, we understand completely that disconnecting from work during treatment can be a challenge. We’ll work with you to determine the level of connectivity that’s right for you.

Contact The Steward House today at 203-801-2275 to speak directly with program leadership and to learn more about what your stay will consist of at The Steward House.