Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Workplace Mental Health Continuing Trend
Oklahoma City, OK – Just a few years ago discussing mental health issues in the workplace was uncharted territory. Ideas of invading an employee’s privacy or caution about accusations of discrimination limited mental health benefits to a couple of visits annually with a counselor. R. Murali Krishna, MD, president of the James L. Hall Center for Mind, Body and Spirit and COO for INTEGRIS Mental Health is working with a variety of corporations to change that, and the trend is gaining momentum.
Individuals who learn to identify dysfunctional behaviors and emotions and develop effective coping skills are more resilient and live a much healthier life. These people have more energy, better concentration, the ability to focus and be productive. This creates better employees.
Dr. Krishna says, “Workplace training seminars to develop healthy coping skills are effective because it helps to eliminate the stigma of dysfunction and creates a sense of camaraderie among co-workers. They begin to work together to improve the overall work environment.”
Seven out of ten workers feel that stress has made them less productive in their work lives. Whether the stress is work related or caused by marital or parenting concerns, anxiety or depression, or legal or financial difficulties, Dr. Krishna’s Art of Happy Living equips employees with specific tools and steps to confront life’s challenges and discover how to live a vibrant life.
INTEGRIS Health is the largest health care system and hospital network in Oklahoma. No stranger to employee wellness initiatives, they began to focus more of their program and educational topics on mental health last year. Spotlighting the need for this new direction were externally influenced changes of the Affordable Care Act, health care reform and reimbursement structures as well as internal, structural changes.
Employee wellness director, Anissa Chadick stated, “In order to address physical health we must first address mental health.” She said selecting Dr. Krishna to kick off the mental health program was an easy choice. “He is well-liked, well-respected and a great presenter. We always have a packed house when he speaks; a packed house!”
Chesapeake Energy Corporation launched its mental health program, Your Life Matters, in 2010 to address the emotional well being of its employees. In the program’s formational stages, the company worked with Dr. Krishna to identify barriers to mental health programs and topics likely to be of interest and relevance to employees. Your Life Matters works first to reduce the stigma around mental health concerns and then provides employees support through educational activities and resources. The company acknowledged mental health challenges and made a commitment to provide the tools to help.
Dr. Krishna is one of those popular tools. The renowned psychiatrist leads sessions for capacity crowds. He guides employees through steps and supplies them with tools to teach the healing power of the connection between mind, body, and spirit. Employees learn stress management, the importance of sleep, how to have successful relationships and finding balance in life.
“Having a mentally healthy workforce is good for business,” said Colleen Dame, Chesapeake Director – Wellness. “When our employees receive information and treatment for their mental health concerns, the result is lower total medical costs, increased productivity, lower absenteeism and decreased disability costs. We also experience better retention rates as employees recognize the value our company places on their health.”
Dr. Krishna easily connects the science of mental health with physical wellbeing and knows the impact equipping employees can have on business. He has made investments over the last decade in workplace mental health as a founding member of Central Oklahoma Turning Point, a program of the United Way that unites partners such as businesses, medical practitioners, educators, clergy, civic groups and government entities to improve the overall health of Oklahomans. COTP’s Health at Work program provides tools and resources for corporations to initiate, and reap the rewards of, a worksite wellness program.
Dr. Krishna identifies tobacco use and obesity as addictive behaviors that are prevalent in the workplace along with substance abuse, anxiety and depression all of which have an effect on physical health. Untreated depression makes a person four times more vulnerable to heart disease. Emotional dysfunction affects the body’s ability to fight infection and accentuates the vulnerability to diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Severe mental illness can accelerate aging at the cellular level affecting appearance and organs taking as much as twenty-five years from life expectancy.
Corporations are recognizing the need for greater mental health benefits and following the lead of COTP and Dr. Krishna. OPUBCO Communications Group has coupled Dr. Krishna’s Lunch and Learn presentations with referrals to the INTEGRIS Mental Health center for brief, solution-focused counseling as well as intensive inpatient treatment for a comprehensive mental health approach. The two organizations are now working hand-in-hand to meet the needs of employees as a group as well as individuals.
Eight months ago, Heritage Trust Company called on Dr. Krishna to initiate a mental health program for the company’s asset management team. Dr. Krishna spoke generally about the importance of mental health and the connection of our mind, body and spirit. The team learned from Dr. Krishna how the brain and heart work together and affect our health. His message of calming yourself daily in order to avoid stress, make better decisions, be healthier, and even make better food choices, really sank in with this group and made a lasting impression.
“We LOVED how he walked us through breathing exercises,” said Mandi Briggs, Communications Coordinator. “His presentation has changed our whole office atmosphere. We now encourage each other to take a deep breath and offer to jump in and help out when a coworker needs to take a step back from a situation.”
The Heritage Trust group acknowledged a need for better sleep and happily accepted Dr. Krishna’s offer of his CD “Say Goodnight to Insomnia.” The gung-ho Heritage Trust participants listened to the CD and some implemented his recommendations using a Fitbit activity tracker to record sleep patterns. The device showed a decrease in waking patterns. Some said it was the best night of sleep they had ever had!
Dr. Krishna says, “People can be taught to fall asleep with the abilities they already have, but may not realized. Through scientific knowledge I can teach you to sleep better and this will have a significant impact on your health.”
According to Dr. Krishna, after six nights of only four hours of sleep, a normal person’s blood sugar can look like the blood sugar of a pre-diabetic. Lack of sleep reduces the immune system’s ability to fight disease, reduces the ability to regenerate tissue, increases overeating that may lead to obesity, heart disease and cancer. A person with consistent lack of adequate sleep is two to three times more vulnerable to cancer. This is especially seen in shift worker who have difficulty adapting to daytime sleeping.
Dr. Krishna is committed to eliminating the stigma of mental illness to break down barriers to treatment and better health. The rewards are a more vibrant life for individuals and a stronger bottom line for business. Dr. Krishna shares his message of healing and hope in his new book, VIBRANT, To Heal and Be Whole, From India to Oklahoma City, available at book retailers everywhere. Learn more at drkrishna.com.