September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and Recovery Month, which have the important goals of preventing suicide and promoting the idea that recovery from behavioral health conditions is achievable. Amid an unprecedented year of stressors, 2020’s awareness months around behavioral health conditions have become more relevant to far more people.
In recognition of the challenges and changes in people’s work lives, an anonymous work-focused site, Team Blind, asked me to conduct an AMA (Ask Me Anything) for their members. Most of their members are tech workers, many from Silicon Valley, and many holding jobs that others would love to have. But, as we know, career success and a good salary don’t prevent behavioral health struggles. This is especially true when many of the social supports we typically enjoy have been stripped from us.
This was my first AMA, but I enjoyed it far more than I had expected, finding meaning in connecting with people I didn’t know.
Here are some observations and take-aways from the many people who shared their experiences and honest questions with me over a few days:
- People are interested in behavioral health. They’re also willing to talk about it… at least anonymously. The questions were deep, with authentic wonder about ways to improve their own psychological health. The amount of self-awareness and recognition of the need for help was impressive. I really appreciated the people who wanted to explore how to support their teams more with behavioral health, wellness, and overall whole person care. We need to reinforce and support self-awareness more.
- Stigma and discrimination in the workplace are real. Multiple people talked about challenges they faced in their workplace, from managers who didn’t take behavioral health seriously to HR being non-responsive to requests for assistance in navigating benefits and rights. I had to remind several people that behavioral health conditions are legally protected. One of my colleagues shared her experience as a new SAS employee in this area. This video is a very good example of how workplaces can support people. We need to do better as a society in improving workplace acceptance of behavioral health.
- People are willing to seek and receive behavioral health care... but barriers are real. Many people asked how to find treatment, what kind of help they would need, how to access care, and similar questions. By and large, these are well-resourced, intelligent technology employees. If these folks don’t know how to get help and have trouble navigating our health systems, how do we expect so many others, especially in poverty, to get help?! And one person shared that despite their self-advocacy in getting needed help based on our discussion, their rights were still removed because of standard health system processes. We need to raise awareness of the legitimate barriers to care and actively work to decrease them.
As I shared with the AMA participants, these challenges are why I’m so passionate about whole person care and using analytics to both raise awareness and find solutions. I’m appreciative to Team Blind for creating an environment where there can be such honesty and depth in conversation for these critical needs. This experience reinforced that our health and workplace systems need much more support in empowering whole person care so that recovery happens!