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Mental Illness: Confronting Stigma at Work

Mental Health 11In this day and age, we’d like to believe that those with mental illness experience the same opportunities for employment as everyone else in the workforce. Unfortunately, these beliefs are not always true. While we’ve certainly made great strides as a progressive society, according to Lisa Smusz who serves as the head of PEERS (Peers Envisioning and Engaging in Recovery Services), a voluntary program shedding light on the stigma associated with mental illness – there is still a lot of progress to be made.

The irony is that many Americans will experience a mental health disorder within their lifetime, but it’s generally not something we like to discuss. Smusz points out that according to 2012 figures released by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 20 percent of Americans, or 46 million people, reported symptoms of a mental health disorder, regardless if they were officially diagnosed or not.

While individuals living with mental health conditions such as OCD, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety often want and need to work for recovery, they may be afraid to disclose such ailments to companies for fear of being labeled or rejected for employment. Numerous studies illustrate that there is a correlation between unemployment rates and mental illness among those with disabilities and that bosses are hesitant when it comes to embracing someone with past emotional health issues.

This just goes to show that society still holds polarized views of mental illness – many wanting to be supportive while secretly harboring certain judgments and fears, even though the majority of people with mental illness are peaceable and productive. Since federal law provides that companies make “reasonable accommodations” to meet special needs of the disabled, employers may avoid choosing applicants they believe have mental disorders to evade any potential conflicts.

Stigma in the workplace exists because people fail to understand the true nature of mental illness. While mental health disorders may be challenging, they are often manageable with appropriate treatment and attention. If you or someone you know is living with a mental health issue, Family Guidance Center can help to achieve employment and other long-term goals. Learn more at www.familyguidance.org.

Howie Mandel: Shaking Hands is No Deal

As a viewer, you may have tuned in and watched the show Deal or No Deal with host Howie Mandel, aOCD 2 television actor, host, and comedian originally born in Canada. What you might not know is that Mandel
rarely ever shakes hands with anyone, including contestants on his show because he has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and an irrational fear of germs. Mandel has also been known to douse himself in hand sanitizer before extending a hand to The Tonight Show host Jay Leno when appearing on the program recently as a guest.

According to an interview with CNN, Mandel’s OCD started when he was a child. Though, at the time, he didn’t understand what made him not want to touch his dirty shoe laces. The condition left him feeling isolated even though the National Institutes of Health stimates that OCD affects more than 2 million Americans.

The problem, says Mandel, is that our country still views mental disorders in a negative light and has disproportionate resources for coping with issues of mental health as opposed to other areas of wellness including medical and dental care. He advocates that mental health, particularly youth mental health, is
deserving of the same attention we give to other aspects of healthcare and that it’s unjust for people to feel shamed for seeking help with depression when they are encouraged to see a professional for say, a routine infection.

Mandel, who also lives with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression, says that OCD is complicated. Sometimes he is more affected by it than other times. And while he knows that touching someone’s hand is physically not going to kill him, there have been times when he can’t keep his mind from racing when just such an encounter occurs.

As Mandel has proven, it is possible to live a successful life in the midst of mental illness. The first step is to talk to a mental health professional if you suspect something out of the ordinary. Family Guidance
Center has mental health professionals  trained in helping both children and adults work through various issues
affecting mental health. To learn more, contact a team member at your local Family Guidance Center.

Patients Influenced by Media Depictions of Mental Illness

Mental Health 11More often today than ever before, mental illness is gaining a prominent platform in television and movie roles. In the past, it would be unusual to find a lead character playing the part of someone with a mental illness like bipolar disorder. However, today in shows like Homeland and Girls, characters living with mental illness are commanding center stage.

According to mental health professionals such as Dr. Vasilis Pozios, forensic psychiatrist and consultant for Broadcast Thought, the media is doing a better job of accurately showing the many facets of mental illness including both symptoms and available treatments. For instance, in the show Homeland, character Carrie Mathison has bipolar disorder. Dr. Pozios says he’s glad the show doesn’t just show one side of the disorder but rather fully depicts the episodes of depression and mania that is characteristic for people with bipolar disorder.

The media has certainly had an impact on bringing issues of mental illness to the forefront of real life conversations. Doctors are finding that patients are paying attention to the way these characters are confronting the disease and are applying what they see to their own lives. On the flipside, however, entertainment value often dictates that television and movies only show the extremes, which can give the public a distorted view of mental illness.

Despite the challenges that mental illness such as bipolar disorder can bring, Pozios says that there are many examples of people with such conditions leading normal, happy lives both at work and at home.  He adds that it’s refreshing to see this represented in Carrie Mathison of Homeland and Girls character, Hannah, who is affected by obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Despite potential inaccuracies, there are many patients that can relate to the ups and downs that characters with mental illness confront both on the big and small screen. To learn more about therapies and treatment programs for adult mental health, visit http://fgcnow.org/.


Know the Warning Signs: When to Seek Professional Help

Mental Health 5For many people, it’s hard to admit the need for help. But throughout the course of life, everyone at some point could use some help. Certainly not every problem warrants professional help. How then do you differentiate between issues that could be improved from mental health treatment and those which could subside on their own?

An article found at Psychology Today provides some insight into when to seek the help of a mental health professional. Here are a few signs that may indicate a need for assistance:

Experiencing trauma In the midst of a traumatic situation, the body’s fight or flight response takes over and helps us self-preserve. It isn’t until after-the-fact that the presence and symptoms of trauma are noticeable, in many cases. If your history includes neglect, abuse, witnessing a horrific event, or if you were a victim of an incident yourself, there is healing in recognizing the presence and impact of trauma with a professional and moving toward healthy coping strategies.

Coping with personal loss Situations like losing a loved one or going through a divorce can literally take the life and energy out of a person. Even losing a job can severely impact personal self-esteem and the will to move forward. Grief from these types of situations can continue for extended periods of time and impact other relationships as well.

Using drugs or alcohol to avoid dealing with problems Relying on drugs or alcohol only serves to make problematic situations worse. If you have trouble giving up substance use despite a desire to do so, or continue to use substances even though doing so yields negative consequences, this could be a sign of an addictive or compulsive disorder that merits further attention.

Warning signs usually start with a person feeling unlike themselves. Perpetual sadness, anger or despair, or continued problems eating or sleeping, should not be ignored. Other signs warranting expert help include loss of interest in things that were once important, a withdrawal from loved ones, or suicidal thoughts. Family Guidance Center is a source of professional help and support and offers services to all income levels. Most mental health problems can be greatly improved with proper diagnosis and treatment. Contact the Family Guidance Center for more information about first steps toward getting help from an experienced mental health professional.

Tantrums More Likely in Children With OCD and Depression

Children Mental Illness 1Any parent of a small child is probably familiar with temper tantrums. Most all children throw a tantrum at some point in their lives, but for children with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these outbursts are likely more frequent. A new study originating out of the United Kingdom also says that tantrums in children with OCD may be tied to depression.

According to a News Medical report online, British researchers reviewed data for over 380 patients receiving treatment from a pediatric clinic specializing in OCD between the years 2005 and 2011. They also examined information collected in the British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Surveys from 1999 and 2004, which included health information for over 18,000 children, 40 of whom had OCD.

Both the clinical and community data supported the fact that children with OCD were more likely to have temper outbursts than children without the disorder. Considering reports of tantrums logged by both children and their parents, 28.6 percent of kids with OCD admitted to outbursts as opposed to only 11.7 percent of their non-OCD peers.

Meanwhile, numbers were also higher from the parental viewpoint with 38.5 percent of parents reporting outbursts for their kids with OCD as compared to only 11.3 percent of parents whose children did not have OCD.

Interestingly, severity of disorder was not a factor in determining outbursts. However, depression symptoms were found to be a predictor of tantrums. Children diagnosed with clinical depression did experience more outbursts than children without the diagnosis. This was true for both reports made by parents and children.

Perhaps the most significant finding was that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was able to reduce the likelihood of outbursts in children with OCD. Treatment also minimized the symptoms of OCD and depression in affected children.

Family Guidance Center is an excellent community resource for addressing concerns with childhood mental health. If you are a parent concerned about outbursts or think your child might have OCD or depression, it’s never too early to look into a professional assessment. The team of mental health professionals at Family Guidance Center can assist in identifying symptoms and developing a plan that addresses both emotional and social aspects of mental health. For more information, contact Family Guidance Center.