We spend much of our lives working with the goal to accomplish the mission and in the process, interacting with coworkers who share this same goal. To accomplish this goal while also enjoying our job, we recognize the importance of fostering a supportive workplace environment. This includes knowing how and when to offer support to our coworkers and when to be aware of our own need to sometimes seek support for ourselves. This issue of support is sometimes more difficult when dealing with the area of mental disorders. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about mental health that can be made more confusing when we see reports of violent incidences occurring on government grounds and media presentations suggesting the perpetrators often have severe mental illness. This can cause us to unconsciously link violence with mental disorders; however, in this course you will learn the truth about mental disorders, including the belief that high incidences of violence are associated with mental illness is actually a myth. And while there are times when behaviors of security concern do overlap with mental disorders and require further review, the overwhelming reason for an employee to visit an agency’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is to have an objective, trained professional help sort out generally temporary and minor emotional problems the employee is currently dealing with.
This course will take approximately 30 minutes to complete. It is designed to bring a mindfulness to the community about mental disorders and help answer some key questions: 1) What is the truth and what are simply myths surrounding mental disorders? 2) Should individuals with a mental disorder be able to hold a clearance? 3) How does inappropriately talking or gossiping about an individual’s mental disorder with coworkers cause hurt to that individual and further reinforce a myth or stigma? How is it the opposite of providing support and empathic understanding? 4) Do you unknowingly have a problem that would benefit from seeking treatment at an EAP? 5) How do you report behaviors of concern which may or may not be related to a mental disorder?
After completing the course we encourage you to seek out additional information regarding mental wellness as part of a focus on ensuring a healthy and supportive workforce. Let’s watch out for each other and offer support in a caring way.
Nuts and Bolts Volume 1. A Magazine dedicated to addressing the stigmas, demystyfying myths, and unveiling truth about those living with mental disorders. Take some time to go through this magazine. Remember key facts, you may see it again towards the end of this course.
I Suffer in Silence. Words can Wound. Our language is filled with slang terms that get carelessly spoken but can sometimes be perceived as rude or stigmatizing by those living with a mental illness. Statements like “Are you crazy?” or “He is nuts.” can sometimes serve to reinforce stigmas when heard by someone with a mental disorder. The title of this magazine is an example of this and was left as is to emphasize this point. Some content developers thought having “Nuts” in the title of this magazine was a clever play on words while others felt it was demeaning. It was decided to use the title as a learning opportunity to illustrate that sometimes, even with the best intentions, individuals could misperceive certain words and suffer harm. So, think before you speak with using language that reflects a mental condition.
Stop the Stigma of mental illness.
Facts. 1 in 3 have first hand experience with mental illness. 1 in 4 adults experience mental illness in a year. That's 61.5 million americans. 1 in 17 live with a serious mental illness.
Eating Healthy. Recent evidence suggests that good nutrition is essential for our mental health and that a number of mental health conditions may be influenced by dietary factors.
Mental disorders aren't real illnesses, like heart disease and diabetes.
Mental disorders will never affect me.
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800.273.8255) can save a life.
Gossip. If your coworker entrusts you with personal information, refrain from repeating it. Avoid the temptation to treat it as a bit of juicy gossip. Gossip often shames and embarrasses the subject, but it also speaks volumes about those who spread it. If tempted to gossip, stop first and ask yourself why you would want to repeat the information. If it isn’t out of kindness – out of a spirit of helping – then it’s best to keep the information to yourself.
Anxiety Signs. 1. Feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge 2. Not being able to sleep or control worrying 3. Worrying too much about different things 4. Having trouble relaxing 5. Being so restless that it is hard to sit still 6. Feeling afraid, as if something awful might happen
When an individual or manager contacts EAP concerned about someone that they want to help, they should not attempt to use diagnostic language but rather stay focused on the behaviors of concern and to make sure they refer the person for help.
The vast majority of people seen in EAPs are experiencing everyday life events which can cause stress, and specific mental health issues can occasionally arise such as marital strife, adjustment issues at work, general life stress, etc. The good news is that the symptoms are often short-term, highly treatable, and can be managed with help.
It is not necessary to have a major mental health disorder such as Bipolar Disorder or Psychosis to seek treatment from an EAP. Employee Assistance Programs are there to assist employees in dealing with all types of life events that impact an individual’s mental health.
Which of these is the correct way to describe an employee's behavior to EAP?
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS Workplace Program Discussions (Transcript)
[Round table discussion featuring Alan Rocha from the Texas Tribune, Dr. Lynda Frost of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, State Representative Garnet Coleman, Dr. Andy Keller of Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, and Adrienne Kennedy from the National Alliance on Mental Illness]
MS. ROCHA: Representative Coleman, you've been very open about your issues relating to bipolar, and what consequences are there with not being open and up front about what you're dealing with?
REP. COLEMAN: Well first of all, if you're dealing in the work place, if you could have a confidential conversation with someone who understands what is happening with you and what the challenges are and to be as accepting as that, say as somebody who has cancer who can't get to work some days because of the cancer treatment.
DR. KELLER: I mean, I think a lot of times, you know, is we would expect with the health condition is you would go to your doctor and there would be screening for that and you'd be able to get help from your doctor to access specialists. That's really not the case for mental illness, it's something that, unfortunately, two-thirds of folks don't ask for help and I think that's really I think the tragedy around, you know, peoples' unwillingness to talk. I think, you know, as Representative Coleman said, folks are, you know, careful about all sorts of illnesses around work, but when it comes that you're not even willing to ask for help, I think that's the first barrier, is getting past that. And then when you want to ask for help, a lot of times you have to ask several times because you gotta find somebody who could connect you with somebody and if you ask your family doctor a lot of times they have to go ask somebody, so I think there's really many barriers once people make that decision but, you know, I think the first barrier to overcome is to simply to ask. And I think as long as you're doing as Dr. Frost said, about talking to people who can keep it confidential who can kind of help you think through it, a lot of times that's a great way to access, whether that's a pasture, whether it's a teacher--if you're a student--whether it's a friend or a family member who can sometimes advocate and help you.
Dr. FROST: I think we also need to keep in mind that there are tremendous strengths that people who have faced big life challenges bring to the table and in looking at employment situations we're all trying to find a good fit where our strengths are appreciated, and so we've been talking about some challenges about disclosing some difficult life experiences but there are a great strengths that come with that and so I think everyone's hope is to find a place where that is valued and respected and it's a helpful thing in the workplace. So community mental health services play a key role. We want to address any kind of trauma, stress, challenges people have as early as possible, there's a lot of research that shows that the earlier you can address challenges the better off everybody is, the better off the individual is, the family member, the better off we all are as taxpayers, so having a robust system of supports in the community is essential to having the society that we want to have.
There were popular sayings many years ago, "Don’t bring your problems to work" and "Leave your emotions at the door." Well, let’s be real; we’re humans, and emotions come with the package. Emotions can’t simply be turned on and off like a light switch. Through Emotional Intelligence they can be brought to our attention and managed, but not omitted; nor would we want them to be. They alert us to danger and allow us to love.
So, if you are experiencing occasional feelings of sadness, anger, or grief, that is expected; however, if these feelings expand over a period of time, and are interfering with your relationships or work, you may want to seek help. Some of those warning signs are:
- Change in baseline behavior (going from engaging to quiet, becoming tearful when normally very even-keeled, etc.)
- Consistent late arrivals or frequent absences
- Lack of cooperation or a general inability to work with colleagues
- Decreased productivity
- Increased accidents or safety problems
- Frequent complaints of fatigue or unexplained pains
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
- Making excuses for missed deadlines or poor work
- Decreased interest or involvement in one's work
- Working excessive overtime over a prolonged period of time
- Expressions of strange or grandiose ideas
- Displays of anger or blaming others
- Poor hygiene
IC employees are not immune from the normal life stresses and difficulties that confront the population at large. Regardless of whether an individual holds a security clearance, at some time in life he or she may face problems with interpersonal relationships, depression, alcohol, family issues, or similar difficulties. Often, the decision to seek help is confounded by individuals' misperception that their security clearance may be in jeopardy regardless of the problem for which they seek help. Some believe that their judgment might be considered suspect if they seek assistance in dealing with a stressful situation. Seeking help for routine life crises does not reflect adversely on an individual's judgment, and, in fact, security and counter-intelligence officers view the commitment to seek help as a positive judgment factor. Seeking professional assistance in dealing with a problem does not jeopardize an individual’s security clearance.
People who live with mental health disorders are often misunderstood and unfairly judged out of fear and lack of understanding. Stigma is the main reason people don’t talk about their mental health symptoms or seek help.
Some harmful effects of stigma include: the reluctance to seek help or treatment; lack of understanding by family, friends, and coworkers; fewer opportunities for work, school, and social activities; health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover mental health treatment; and the belief that you will never be able to succeed at certain challenges or change your situation
You can help break the stigma by learning the truth about mental disorders and becoming a mental health advocate!
Music has been used for hundreds of years to treat illnesses and restore harmony between mind and body. But recently, scientific studies have attempted to measure the potential benefits of music. They have found the following:
- Music’s form and structure can bring order and security to disabled and distressed children. It encourages coordination and communication, so it improves their quality of life.
- Listening to music on headphones reduces stress and anxiety in hospital patients before and after surgery.
- Music can help reduce the sensation and distress of both chronic pain and postoperative pain.
- Listening to music can relieve depression and increase self-esteem ratings in elderly people.
- Making music can reduce burnout and improve mood among nursing students.
- Music therapy significantly reduces emotional distress and boosts quality of life among adult cancer patients.
Depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with an individual’s thoughts, behavior, mood activity, and physical health. It is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and many other developed countries.
Bipolar is a medical illness that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. Bipolar disorder is a chronic and generally life-long condition, with recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to months and that often begin in adolescence or early adulthood and, occasionally, even in children.
SCHIZOPHRENIA & PSYCHOSISSCHIZOPHRENIA & PSYCHOSIS
With medication, therapy, and support, many people with psychosis are able to manage their symptoms, gain greater independence, and lead fulfilling lives. Finding the right treatments takes time, and setbacks do happen, but most people with psychosis get better over time, not worse. So, no matter what challenges you presently face, there is always hope.
You are not powerless when it comes to mania and depression. Understanding the signs and symptoms and seeking professional help are the first steps to feeling better. It is important to surround yourself with people you can count on, make healthy lifestyle choices, and monitor your moods. With good coping skills and a solid support system, you can live fully and productively and keep the symptoms of bipolar disorder in check.
Depression can make you feel sad, mad, or empty. With the aid of new information, proven self-help strategies, and support, you can beat depression. The key to recovery is to start small and make daily investments in yourself. Full recovery takes time and can be a two-step forward one step backward process, but you can get there.
PTSD & TRAUMAPTSD & TRAUMA
There is no right or wrong way to feel after traumatic events, yet there are many strategies that can help you work through feelings of pain, fear, and grief and regain your emotional balance. Whether the traumatic event happened years ago or yesterday, you can heal and move on with your life.
SUICIDE PREVENTIONSUICIDE PREVENTION
Many people ignore the topic of suicide. If you’re the one contemplating suicide, you may be afraid that you’ll be judged or labeled “crazy” if you open up. It’s just as tough for concerned friends and family members, who may hesitate to speak up for fear that they might say the wrong thing. Understand that people who consider suicide do not have a character defect; it only means that the person has more pain than they feel capable of coping with. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings to the EAP or an outside therapist, or reaching out via the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800.273.8255), can save a life.
Anxiety isn’t always bad. At times, it can help you stay focused under pressure. But when worries, fears, or panic attacks start to get in the way of your life, you may be living with an anxiety disorder. There are many things you can do to manage your anxiety. Treatment is effective and recovery is possible.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after someone experiences a traumatic event that caused intense fear, helplessness, or horror. People with PTSD continually re-experience the traumatic event and avoid individuals, thoughts, or situations associated with the event. They frequently have symptoms of excessive emotions. PTSD symptoms usually appear within three months of the traumatic experience, however, they sometimes occur months or even years later.
During this course, you've received a lot of information pertaining to mental health. Mental disorders like bipolar disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were defined and described, and the facts about just how prevalent mental disorders like these are in the population were provided. Many of the myths and stigmas surrounding mental disorders were identified and debunked. You’ve learned that mental disorders in and of themselves are not of concern from a personnel security perspective but rather specific behaviors that demonstrate a security risk are what matter most. You've heard directly from someone living with a mental disorder about what it is like in the workplace.
Most importantly, you've been given information about how to recognize some of the specific warning signs that signify that someone, maybe even you, may be experiencing a mental disorder. Resources like the Employee Assistance Program were discussed, and you have learned that most of the mental health concerns that lead individuals to seek professional help are simply part-of-life issues.
Now that you have all of this information, it is essential that you put it to good use. The content of this course will be most valuable if it impacts your thoughts and actions in ways that increase your mental wellness and that of your coworkers on a daily basis. By implementing what you've learned, you'll help to improve the work environment and make it one in which everybody feels comfortable, supported, and accepted. Thank you for your time, and don’t forget to put what you've learned into practice in your day-to-day activities at work.
A question regarding mental health is asked on the Standard Form 86 because certain emotional, mental, and personality conditions can impair judgment, reliability, or trustworthiness. However, the U.S. government recognizes the critical importance of mental health and advocates proactive management of mental health conditions to support the wellness and recovery of federal employees and others. Therefore, mental health treatment and counseling, in and of itself, is not a reason to revoke or deny eligibility for access to classified information or for holding a sensitive position, suitability or fitness to obtain or retain federal or contract employment, or eligibility for physical or logical access to federally controlled facilities or information systems.
In reality, personnel security professionals are most concerned with specific behaviors that demonstrate a security risk, not mental disorders. Examples of such behaviors include:
- Witting or unwitting exposure of the names of IC personnel to Foreign Intelligence Service or the media.
- Breaches in security of government facilities.
- An employee providing classified information, wittingly or unwittingly, to unauthorized persons.
- Attempts to gain access to information for which they have no need-to-know.
- Coming in early to work or working late for no obvious reason.
- Sending materials to print to other than their normal printer.
- Not reporting foreign travel or meetings with foreign nationals.
If you observe someone performing these behaviors or other behaviors of security concerns, you should report that behavior. There are several methods for reporting such as contacting your manager/supervisor, MSD/CI, or the Employee Assistance Program. The fastest way to report a behavior of concern is to email ODNI-Insider on your classified system.