Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Clubhouse Room Rules

My Clubhouse Room Rules 

Please read this before engaging to see if my ClubHouse room is something you’d like to be a part of.

  1. Respect is required. Let’s create a safe space for everyone to have a voice and feel heard!
  2. Regardless of your beliefs, everyone will have a chance to speak.
  3. If the room is over 50, keep your speaking time to 2 minutes max. If the speaker starts a long-winded talk, , the mods will interject to keep us on point.Also, please stay on topic.
  4. If you attack anyone in the room or don’t show respect, we will interject and may remove you from the room.
  5. I will be checking my DM’s. If you have an issue with the room, DM me on Twitter or IG.
  6. No spam: Do not push your product or service to the room.
  7. Like life, there’s a wide variety of people on CH. If you make anyone feel uncomfortable for being a certain gender, race, class, disability, political party, sexual preference or religion, I see you as ruining the room. You will be removed.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Love – Michelle

Build it and they will come!

A belief that I have always shared! Those living with or caring for a loved one with a mental illness are seeking ways to connect with one another and to give and receive support. A mental health employee resource group (ERG) within any organization is powerful way to foster a real sense of supportive connection while extinguishing the mental health stigma in the workplace.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Stefanie who is a very powerful woman causing real change in her California based company, Splunk. She is my guest blogger this week and she shares her journey in launching their ERG at Splunk.

Our Neurodiverse Journey: Starting a Mental Health ERG at Splunk

Last month, my ERG leadership team and I celebrated the official launch of Splunk’s first Neurodiversity Employee Resource Group, a group that aims to provide a voice, community, and support for employees with mental health or neurodivergent conditions, or those caring for loved ones experiencing those conditions. To commemorate this milestone, I asked mental health activist Zak Williams (son of Robin Williams) to give a fireside chat and Q&A — and he told me he’d be “delighted.”

Our Membership Spiked

The event, to say the least, was a major success. Hundreds of employees either attended or viewed Zak’s presentation remotely. The Q&A ran way over time, and we still couldn’t get to all the questions. Conversations were fired with dizzying speed over our Neurodiversity Slack channel. Our membership spiked. My inbox and personal Slack blew up with people offering to volunteer, asking questions and requesting that we ship our ERG t-shirts to their offices. And it was thrilling to see this degree of passion around the topic of mental health from the Splunk community — and how excited they were to roll up their sleeves and get the ball rolling.

Before we began this endeavor, I knew anecdotally that there was interest. I tend to talk about mental health just about everywhere — music concerts, dinner parties, sporting events — and the workplace was no exception. But whenever I did, my colleagues immediately chimed in about their own experiences or expressed that they wanted to be a part of a Splunk initiative.

Starting a Neurodiversity ERG began to make sense. Splunk had numerous existing ERGs, but none that specifically addressed mental health. So over beers at a local bar one day, two of my work colleagues and I brainstormed everything that our ideal organization would include — and we didn’t hold back.

We’re Limited Only By Our Imaginations  

These days, we are busy planning everything from mindfulness and mental health education workshops to programming around ADD and ASD, intersectional ERG panels and community poetry slams. We’re limited only by our imaginations and creativity. And looking ahead, we not only have an opportunity to change a workplace culture, but to be a leader in a greater industry-wide shift that normalizes mental health in the workplace.  I look forward to what’s to come in 2020 and beyond!

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If you are looking to build a mental health strategy and/or create an ERG of your own, let’s talk! I am on a personal mission to cause inclusion in workplaces across the U.S. I would be thrilled to support you in your journey to cause real change where you work!

Psych Central Interview

Recently, I was invited on the award-winning Psych Central podcast. Host Gabe Howard approaches psychology and mental health in an accessible and candid manner. The thing I really love about Gabe is that he openly discloses his own journey living with bipolar disorder. He knows first-hand how hard it is to navigate a mental illness.

As I strive to generate more compassion in the world around mental illness, I found his quote very impactful since so many people really just do not understand how hard life can be for those suffering.

“I wish I could lock people in a room with all of the symptoms of bipolar just for a 24-hour period and then release them back into the wild and just watch how kind, considerate, understanding, and patient they would be from that experience.”

Check out the podcast. Please share with others who might benefit from understanding what life is like for someone trying to navigate life while managing their mental illness. https://psychcentral.com/blog/show/

I also encourage you to check out the Psych Central website for more mental health resources to learn more about mental illness

 

My guest blogger this week, Laura Susanne Yochelson, couragously shares her personal story about her journey to recovery. Thank you for sharing Laura.

My Resistance to Treatment

My 15-year struggle with mental illness started in middle school.  It was triggered by a cross-country family move from Bethesda, Maryland to body conscious Southern California.  By high school I became obsessed with food and working out. My parents tried to get me help but I resisted conventional approaches.

The roots of my eating disorder went unrecognized in college. My weight crashed during the first semester even though I was seeing a therapist four times a week. I had to take a leave of absence.  One year later, living at home rather than on campus, I resumed studies in health promotion to understand what was going on in my world and with others like me. My undergraduate experience was lopsided. Despite getting high grades, I lived in isolation, anger, and pain.

After college, I published a 260-page memoir about my struggle. This attempt at self-help backfired. I blamed family and friends for my problems, giving book talks at universities, libraries, and businesses.  My fantasy of becoming a celebrity didn’t materialize.  Self-absorption and lack of friendships fed psychosis!

My family and I experienced three years of crisis including a near-death experience. I bounced from one eating disorder program to another. None of them addressed my haunting voices and painful feelings. In fact, I got angrier as a result of forced feeding that violated my values.

The Path to Recovery

I finally came to grips with my mental illness when my parents hired an interventionist and sent me to a treatment center in South Florida. The path to recovery took a year of consistent treatment. For the first time, I connected with my therapist and psychiatrist. As part of my treatment, I accepted medication, found a support network, and interacted with my peers.

Treatment in South Florida succeeded because the approach was holistic and personalized. I learned to trust because I knew that nobody could flip a switch and that it takes time to get better. Today, I am very grateful for the opportunity to share my story, which supports my recovery.

Laura Susanne Yochelson is a summa cum laude graduate of American University and recently received a Master of Science in health promotion management. She has written about her recovery experience in the blogs of Active Minds, NAMI, The AU Eagle and others. Laura can be reached through LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/laurasusanne) and WordPress (laurauthor.wordpress.com).

 

 

Two wine glasses with wine being poured into one highlighting the connection between alcohol and bipolar disorder

Alcohol and Bipolar Disorder Are a Dangerous Combination

My guest blogger this week, Nathan Yerby with Alcohol Rehab Guide (ARG), talks about this very dangerous combination. Thank you for your contribution Nathan.

Alcohol & Bipolar Disorder are a Dangerous Combination

Alcohol is the one of the world’s most common drugs. For people with bipolar disorder, alcohol has the potential to inflict substantial harm. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol impairs the functioning of the brain by altering its production of the neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate. As alcohol changes a person’s brain chemistry, that person starts to feel disinhibited. With every drink, judgment and coordination grow weaker while impulsivity and aggression grow stronger. Quite simply, alcohol disturbs the balance of a person’s mind.

Alcohol Amplifies Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Without alcohol, a person with bipolar disorder will already swing back and forth from intense euphoria to crushing depression. Alcohol amplifies the symptoms of bipolar disorder by further destabilizing a person’s emotions. For example, the euphoric effects of alcohol can enhance the excitability and altered perception which characterize a manic episode. The sedative effects of alcohol can also prolong and deepen periods of bipolar depression. Furthermore, there is evidence that alcohol reacts adversely with common medications that people take to manage bipolar disorder. For instance, alcohol can exacerbate some side-effects of mood stabilizers, such as confusion and drowsiness, or may dangerously supplement the strength of antidepressants.

According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the substance use disorder from which people with bipolar disorder most frequently suffer is alcohol addiction. Indeed, research shows that bipolar disorder and alcoholism are common co-occurring disorders, meaning they exist simultaneously in a person and influence one another. During mania, a person may lack the control to stop drinking alcohol once they’ve started. Likewise, many people with bipolar depression drink alcohol to feel better. The two disease are truly co-occurring because alcohol abuse only worsens bipolar mania and depression.

The Consequences are Real

There are serious consequences to co-occurring alcohol addiction and bipolar disorder. Most notably, current research demonstrates that people with bipolar disorder who also abuse alcohol are twice as likely to attempt suicide as a bipolar person who is sober. Fortunately, there is hope for recovery for people who suffer from both conditions. Many rehab centers now offer treatment for co-occurring disorders. Sometimes, therapy for one disorder can help alleviate the other, an important process for unraveling the destructive cycle that they both create.

Sources:

Conner, E. (2016). Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder. Healthline. Retrieved on November 20, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-and-alcohol

Hall-Flavin, D.K. (2019). Bipolar disorder and alcoholism: Are they related? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on November 20, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/expert-answers/bipolar-disorder/faq-20057890

Hunt, G.E. et al. (2016). Prevalence of comorbid bipolar and substance use disorders in clinical settings, 1990–2015: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 206: 331-349. Retrieved on November 20, 2019, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S016503271630581X

National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved on November 20, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

Sonne, S.C. & Brady, K.T. (2002). Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism. Alcohol Research & Health, 26(2): 103-108. Retrieved on November 20, 2019, from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-2/103-108.htm

 

 

Help Wanted: Work Place Mental Health Change Makers

I am on a mission because nobody is immune to mental illness. We all need more support, more compassion, and better mental health care. As I engage in conversations with a myriad of diverse populations, I hear one common theme – we must do more!  Whether they are lawyers struggling from addiction and suicide or physicians and health care workers struggling with burnout or police officers dealing with PTSD; everyone I encounter is asking for more mental health support. It truly is a blessing that it is finally on their radar. I am optimistic that we are on an amazing path. But there is still a lot of work to be done.

Peer Support Communities Can Make All the Difference

One of the things I am incredibly passionate about is helping organizations realize that they have an amazing and powerful untapped resource within – their own people. Just imagine if every single person was given the chance to leverage their own lived mental health experience and help others around them. The power of a structured peer support community within the workplace can be amazing and can result in many benefits. Beyond it being the right thing to do, the bottom line benefits range from decreased LTD and STD claims, reduced sick leave, increased employee engagement and increased use of EAP.

Companies who are committed to creating a more inclusive workplace for those living with invisible disabilities are the companies that will invite diverse talent and set themselves apart from their competition. Aside from that, in a recent WHO study it was highlighted that for every $1 USD invested in scaling up treatment for mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 USD in improved health and productivity.

One Police Department’s Successful Peer Support Community

One of the areas that I am acutely focused on is helping our first responders. After the flurry of suicides within the NYC Police Department this year, I feel pulled to want to do more for this vulnerable population. Through exploring, I learned about the incredible power of peer support within the Ottawa police department. Hear the difference it has made for these officers in their own words.

This example has made me realize that I am a force for change and will do whatever I can to help first responders learn about and adopt this powerful program for thier staff. Beyond first responders, I truly believe that every workplace should have a structured peer support community.

Leaning into my fearless tenacity and steadfast commitment to making a real difference in the world, I am out to cause profound change! To learn more about bringing a structured peer support program to your workplace, reach out to me and let me help you bring this program to your workplace!

Courage In The Face of Burnout

During this journey of pure uncertainty, I have been blessed to meet the most incredible people. Amy Young is one of them. I am quite confident that she was one of the people I ran with in the dark at 5:30 am with the popular Coach Tooley Run team, yet we never formally met until a dear friend said  “you have GOT to meet Amy”. From the moment I met her, I was inspired by her energy and her spirit. I love what she is standing for and how she is a living example of courage. I think you will appreciate her very powerful guest blogger message.

Courage in the Face of Burnout ~ Amy Young

Nearly two years ago, I left what many would consider to be a dream job. I had spent over 15 years climbing the corporate ladder in the media world, first at CBS then as part of Google’s Global Partnerships team. 

The perks of working at Google are well publicized, but all the free coffee and nap pods in the world couldn’t make up for the void I felt in my body and mind each day. I tried to work harder, study more and “fake it till I make it”. About three months into the job, severe imposter syndrome set in, opening the door to multiple panic attacks. At the time I felt like a failure, but what I realize now is how long I had avoided my growing state of burnout. 

In 2019, the World Health Organization classified workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon and work hazard. According to the WHO, burnout is classified by three factors: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.

I was in trouble

Long before I moved to Google I was in trouble, I just didn’t realize the signs. I kept ignoring my gut that something was off, pushing my intuition down and pushing forward with work. I had three kids in five years, earned two promotions with three new bosses and raised my level of self expectation all while sacrificing the things I enjoyed doing both inside and outside of my work. I began to fill the void in my soul by filling my ego, buying more expensive clothes, pushing for new marathon PRs and getting that next title. When I reached a career plateau, I thought a new job was the answer, so I answered when Google called.  

Using intentional emotional transparency takes courage, but if you find yourself experiencing exhaustion, mental distance, and reduced capacity in either your professional or personal life, I urge you to ask yourself, “What is it costing me to live this way?”.  If the answer is too much, have the courage to speak up and seek support. Taking an intentional pause to rebuild your life may be the most important thing you ever do. No job is worth risking your mental health and sanity. 

About Amy  

Amy Young is the Founder and CEO of Redefine Possibility (www.redefinepossibility.com), a media platform and coaching service for successful career women transitioning to a more purpose driven life. She can be reached at amyyoung@redefinepossibility.com

 

Keeping the Conversation Going!

Last week I had the opportunity to be on Good Day Maryland and it was a wonderful experience.

Talking about mental health and being a contribution in this space brings me great fulfillment and gives me a way to honor my mother. As with anything that requires change, we must be relentless in causing these conversations that matter. Initiating a dialogue around mental wellbeing can make all the difference for someone. And, simply asking “are you ok” can also make all the difference. We just never know what people around us are dealing with.

When we are courageous to engage in a conversation around mental health, we get to demonstrate just how easy it is to do so and it will naturally encourage others to do the same for their loved ones as well. And that is how we can all create a ripple effect.

Check out my interview below.

Good Morning Washington (ABC)

In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, I was interviewed on ABC’s Good Morning Washington.

Let’s be more courageous. Let’s reach out and check-in with our loved ones and ask if they are ok. By talking more openly about brain health we make scary feelings and thoughts a little less scary. Talking also reduces the stigma and normalizes brain health.

If you are interested bringing change to your workplace, please check out my 5 steps to Shifting Workplace Cultures. Invite me to speak about my story and open up the conversation about brain health and make brain health cool!

 

Life Is Precious

Suicide of a Colleague

I received a call last week that left me deeply upset and incredibly connected to the work I am doing. An entire workplace was in shock and devestation in the sudden loss of their own colleague. One ordinarly evening she left work, went home, and took her own life. In all the hours prior her peers did not recognize any suicidal signs or symptoms making it even more devastating for them. On the surface she appeared to be just fine. She was even seen laughing with her co-workers just hours earlier.

This story upset me. It is so hard to comprehend the tragic loss of such a beautiful young 27-year-old woman who had her entire life ahead of her. I am even more connected to what is really at stake and why I care. More than ever, I am deeply committed to causing more compassionate workplaces with open dialogue around mental health and wellbeing. Bottom line, I never want another workplace to suddenly lose one of their own coworkers like this again. Suicide does not have to happen!

Shame & Embarrassment 

Too often we put on a mask when we come to work. We feel forced to pretend that we are bullet proof. We don’t dare show that we may be struggling and risk people seeing us as weak or perceived as incapable. This needs to change. I envision a world where the peers that we work side by side with look after and care for each other just as we care for our own families. For many of us, our peers become our families. So why aren’t there more accepting work environments that embrace invisible disabilities compassionately? Why don’t environments foster a new kind of conversation around mental health? The workplace provides the greatest opportunity to eradicate the mental health stigma.

In honor of that young woman, I am even more committed to helping to cause the change necessary for everyone. I want us all to feel safe talking about our wellbeing and reaching out and getting the support we need before it is too late.

I invite you to join me on this journey. Ask me how you can bring change to your organization and create a more compassionate culture at work for yourself and your peers. Together we can eradicate the stigma preventing so many from the care they deserve.

In honor of September being Suicide Prevention Month, I leave you with a link shared by our own Caring Contact Helpline that highlights the five action steps for communicating with someone who may be suicidal.