A neuroscientist shares the 6 exercises she does every day to build resilience and mental strength

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A neuroscientist shares the 6 exercises she does every day to build resilience and mental strength

By Wendy Suzuki, CNBC

When I first began researching anxiety in my lab as a neuroscientist, I never thought of myself as an anxious person.

That is, until I started noticing the words used by my subjects, colleagues, friends and even myself to describe how we were feeling — “worried,” “on edge,” stressed out,” “distracted,” “nervous,” “ready to give up.”

But what I’ve found over the years is that the most powerful way to combat anxiety is to consistently work on building your resilience and mental strength. Along the way, you’ll learn to appreciate or even welcome certain kinds of mistakes for all the new information they bring you.

Here are six daily exercises I use to build my resilience and mental strength:

1. Visualize positive outcomes

At the beginning or at the end of each day, think through all those uncertain situations currently in your life — both big and small. Will I get a good performance review? Will my kid settle well in his new school? Will I hear back after my job interview?

Now take each of those and visualize the most optimistic and amazing outcome to the situation. Not just the “okay” outcome, but the best possible one you could imagine.

This isn’t to set you up for an even bigger disappointment if you don’t end up getting the job offer. Instead, it should build the muscle of expecting the positive outcome and might even open up ideas for what more you might do to create that outcome of your dreams.

2. Turn anxiety into progress

Our brain’s plasticity is what enables us to be resilient during challenging times — to learn how to calm down, reassess situations, reframe our thoughts and make smarter decisions.

And it’s easier to take advantage of this when we remind ourselves that anxiety doesn’t always have to be bad. Consider the below:

  • Anger could block your attention and ability to perform, OR it could fuel and motivate you; sharpen your attention; and serve as a reminder of what’s important.
  • Fear could trigger memories of past failures; rob your attention and focus; and undermine your performance, OR it could make you more careful about your decisions; deepen your reflection; and create opportunities for changing direction.
  • Sadness could flatten out your mood and demotivate you, OR it could help you reprioritize and motivate you to change your environment, circumstances and behavior.
  • Worry could make you procrastinate and get in the way of accomplishing goals, OR it could help you fine-tune your plans; adjust your expectations; and become more realistic and goal-oriented.
  • Frustration could stymie your progress and steal your motivation, OR it could innervate and challenge you to do more or better.

These comparisons may seem simplistic, but they point to powerful choices that produce tangible outcomes.

3. Try something new

These days, it’s easier than ever to take a new online class, join a local sports club or participate in a virtual event.

Not too long ago, I joined Wimbledon champ Venus Williams in an Instagram Live workout, where she was using Prosecco bottles as her weights. I’d never done something like that before. It turned out to be a fantastic and memorable experience.

My point is that for free (or only a small fee) you can push your brain and body to try something you never would have considered before. It doesn’t have to be a workout, and it doesn’t have to be hard — it can be something right above your level or just slightly outside of your comfort zone.

4. Reach out

Being able to ask for help, staying connected to friends and family, and actively nurturing supportive, encouraging relationships not only enables you to keep anxiety at bay, but also shores up the sense that you’re not alone.

It isn’t easy to cultivate, but the belief and feeling that you are surrounded by people who care about you is crucial during times of enormous stress — when you need to fall back on your own resilience in order to persevere and maintain your well-being.

When we are suffering from loss or other forms of distress, it’s natural to withdraw. We even see this kind of behavior in animals who are mourning. Yet you also have the power to push yourself into the loving embrace of those who can help take care of you.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Boris Kodjoe on prioritizing his ‘spiritual, mental and physical health’: ‘I take time every single day to just be with myself’

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Boris Kodjoe sitting and smiling for the camera

By Erin Donnelly and Stacy Jackman, Yahoo! Life

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

On-screen, Boris Kodjoe is saving lives as a firefighter on the ABC action-drama Station 19. Off-screen, he’s hoping to do the same by amplifying a new Men’s Health Awareness Month campaign highlighting the risks of prostate cancer, particularly for Black men like him, who are 75 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disease and twice as likely to die from it.

In a video interview with Yahoo Life, the Austrian-born actor stresses the importance of looking after one’s physical and mental health. In terms of the former, he’s partnering with Depend and the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) for the return of the Stand Strong for Men’s Health initiative to destigmatize male incontinence and offer support to those being treated for prostate cancer; Depend will donate up to $350,000 to the cause.

Kodjoe calls the cause a “very personal” one, as he saw a close friend and mentor undergo his own battle with prostate cancer.

“It reminded me that I needed to take care of myself,” he says. “And the first step to do that is to talk about health issues, to talk about everything that concerns us — spiritual, mental and physical health — to be vulnerable, to be open and not to consider it as a weakness to talk about these things. And as Black men, we are facing a lot of things every single day. There’s a lot of weight on our shoulders, but in order to take care of others, we’ve got to take care of ourselves first.”

The Soul Food actor hopes the initiative and breakthrough in cancer research will help draw attention and find solutions to the racial disparities present in access to quality health care. He also wants to spark conversations about other pressing health issues within the Black community, including obesity and the mental strain brought upon by the pandemic and social justice unrest.

Now 48 and a father of two — he and his actress wife Nicole Ari Parker share a daughter and son — Kodjoe is prioritizing his own health needs as he gets older.

“I’m getting to an age now where I’m the guy now holding the phone six feet away from my face so I can read what’s on the screen,” he jokes. “It’s undeniable that we’re all getting older and so we need just those constants… I’m the first one to admit that I didn’t do a great job always taking care of myself. I have a family and they depend on me, so I need to do that.”

That includes looking after his mental headspace, too.

“I practice what I preach and I take time every single day to just be with myself, whether it’s my morning prayer, meditation or laying down and stretching in my trailer when I have five or 10 minutes between shots,” he says. “There’s stuff that you can do that’s pretty simple to include in your daily routine that you could turn into a habit. And it’s important because we have so many habits that are detrimental to our health. We need to balance that out with habits that are actually good for ourselves — whether it’s mental health, spiritual health or our physical health — that will ensure that we’re here for a longer time.”

The Real Husbands of Hollywood star — who will soon make his directorial debut with the Lifetime movie Safe Space, in which he stars opposite his wife — says that his work can also be “therapeutic.”

“It’s a creative outlet,” he says. “It’s a way for me to represent who I am, to represent us [the Black community] in the most multi-dimensional way possible. Historically we’ve been sort of portrayed in one-dimensional ways. And I think that every role we take on, we try to make sure that you represent our culture in a way that shows how multi-dimensional we are. It’s an outlet that I’m really grateful to have.”

While that work is rewarding, Kodjoe is careful to maintain what he calls a “work-life list of priorities,” with his family at the top.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Life.

Local Teen Clings To Hope Almost A Decade After Epilepsy Diagnosis

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Local Teen Clings To Hope Almost A Decade After Epilepsy Diagnosis

By Derrick Stuckly, Brown Wood News

The month of November is known as a time when we gather around the table with our friends and family to celebrate what we are thankful for. But for more than 3.4 million Americans the month of November means so much more. November is Epilepsy Awareness Month.

According to the National Epilepsy foundation 1 in 10 people will have a seizure and 1 in 26 will develop epilepsy during their lifetime.

Ellie Mclver, a 16 year old junior at Santa Anna High school, is 1 in 26.

For most teenagers their list of worries usually involves what they’re going to wear to winter formal, acne, sports, and narrowing down what college they will apply to. But for teenagers like Santa Anna junior Ellie, her list looks a little different. I had the opportunity to get to know Ellie and her mom Brandi as they both courageously shared with me what Ellie’s life has looked like since she was diagnosed with Epilepsy at the tender age of 8.

Ellie was in class her 3rd grade year when she had her first seizure. Tests performed after that seizure led to an epilepsy diagnosis. The epilepsy diagnosis was hard enough for the family but the news only got worse as they would later be told by doctors that Ellie’s seizures were considered irretractable. Ellie explained to me that this means medicine does not work to control her seizures.

Not even a year after her diagnosis Ellie went in for her first major brain surgery. This was a terrifying time for the entire Mclver family. They weren’t even sure this surgery was going to help but with medicine out of the question, this was their only option to try to stop the seizures.

After surgery Ellie’s family walked around cautiously but eventually a week passed, then a month, and before they knew it Ellie had been seizure free for 4 years.

Time went on and as most families do Ellie’s family gathered around the table for Thanksgiving in 2018 when family members noticed Ellie was “zoned out.” For any other teen this is a pretty normal occurrence but for Ellie this indicated a seizure. After 4 years Ellie was experiencing a focal seizure which meant she was no longer seizure free. Her seizures progressively got worse after this occurance. In September of 2019 Ellie’s family had a hard time pulling her out of a seizure and they had to call an ambulance. Once again Ellie had no choice but to undergo another brain surgery. This time the surgery was unsuccessful, she was still having seizures.

Ellie is 16 now and she knows she is facing more complex brain surgeries in hopes that one day she will be completely seizure free. Ellie is not fearful for what is ahead; she is ready to head into battle to do what she needs to do so she can have more freedom. With that, I asked her if there are things are she’s had to overcome because of epilepsy that other teens her age haven’t had to deal with. She said, “The hardest thing is that I can’t get my drivers license!” She also went on to say, “I miss a lot of school because after a seizure it can take a few hours or even days to recover so I feel like I’m always playing catch up.” I was amazed to learn that even though she is forced to play catch up Ellie’s resilience and urge to be great outweighs the task of that catch up. She told me she is the president of their FFA chapter, she plays clarinet in the high school band, and she takes dual credit classes. She did have to give up playing high school sports because the stress was more than her brain would physically allow her to handle.

Although Ellie has had to give some things up and she has a lot to manage and figure out, she still expressed little concern for herself and more concern for her friends. She shared with me that her friends have never seen her have a seizure and she hopes they never do. She said, “but they do see a lot of side effects from my medication. My medications can be hard to regulate so sometimes I seem “high”, and I have tons of “brain fog.” She said her teachers and friends are great at knowing when she isn’t doing okay, and they do all they can to help support her.

Ellie’s mom Brandi confirmed this by saying, “Ellie has a huge support group and so many people praying for her every day. She gets notes from people in our church, other churches, and several cards a month from a sweet group of ladies that don’t even live in our town.” Brandi went on to say that Ellie calls these things her ‘fan mail” and the encouragement makes a huge difference on this journey.

I asked Brandi what it has been like to watch her daughter battle epilepsy for more than half of her life and I was so inspired by her when she said, ‘Ellie has handled every obstacle in her path with grace and although it has been heart wrenching to watch her go through all that she has, Ellie has never lost faith, so how could I?”

Ellie continued to share her faith and confidence in God when she said “When things get tough, I cling to the verse 2 Timothy 1:7, which reads, “God hasn’t given us the spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

It is without a doubt that even at such a young age with such a tough diagnosis Ellie has power, love, and a sound mind about her. People who don’t know Ellie would never know that she currently takes 3 medications that must be administered on a strict schedule, they don’t know how often her family must make the drive to Fort Worth to be seen and monitored by her neurosurgeon, and they don’t know that sometimes she suffers in pain and in a fog. Her radiant smile would surely tell you otherwise.

Click here to read the full article on Brown Wood News.

Epilepsy Foundation Rolls Out #RemoveTheFilter Social Media Campaign for National Epilepsy Awareness Month

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Epilepsy Foundation Rolls Out #RemoveTheFilter Social Media Campaign for National Epilepsy Awareness Month

By PR News Wire

Today marks the start of National Epilepsy Awareness Month (NEAM) and the Epilepsy Foundation is leveraging its community’s strength to reduce the fear surrounding epilepsy and bring hope to those facing challenges.

Through a social media campaign called #RemoveTheFilter, the Epilepsy Foundation is asking everyone to “remove the filter” by empowering them to take action and make a difference for those affected by epilepsy.

“For many, epilepsy and seizures are not something that is openly discussed because they fear discrimination, bullying or simply because they don’t know how to explain it to others,” said Laura Thrall, president and CEO, Epilepsy Foundation. “The focus of this campaign is to break the silence surrounding epilepsy and bring awareness so that people with epilepsy feel safer in their communities.”

One in 10 people will have a seizure and 1 in 26 will develop epilepsy during their lifetime. Through a series of stories, #RemoveTheFilter encourages people affected by epilepsy to leverage the power of their eJourney to decrease fear, encourage conversations and inspire action. Those featured in the stories highlight the challenges of epilepsy, how they overcame barriers, and why they removed the filter.

As part of the campaign, the Epilepsy Foundation is encouraging everyone to get Seizure First Aid Ready to save a life. The Foundation, in partnership with SK Life Science Inc, recently introduced a 30-minute on-demand course for people to learn the basics of seizure first aid. The course is available online free of charge on the Foundation’s Epilepsy Learning Portal.

Other ways people can #RemoveTheFilter during November:

  • Share their epilepsy journey
  • Become an Epilepsy Awareness Ambassador
  • Participate in the Walk to END EPILEPSY®
  • Join Others in Fundraise Your Way

For more NEAM 2021 activities, please visit epilepsy.com/NEAM.

Click here to read the full article on PR News Wire.

Local school districts set aside ‘mental health’ days for students, teachers

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Several school districts in central North Carolina are setting aside time for students and teachers to take a "mental health" break.

By Matt Talhelm, WRAL

Several school districts in central North Carolina are setting aside time for students and teachers to take a “mental health” break.

“Our mental health is declining at an unsustainable rate. Our administration and mental health specialists are trying their very hardest, yet we need more,” said Chapel Hill-Carboro City Student Body President, Madi Lin, during an Oct. 21 board meeting.

“Students need to hear from our district that it is acceptable and encouraged to take a mental health day. We need to know that it is normal and healthy to take a break,” she said. Lin is also in charge of a school organization focusing on students’ mental health, Bring Change 2 Mind, according to her mother.

Officials with the Wake County Public School System, Durham Public Schools and Cumberland County Schools also decided to designate Nov. 12 as a “mental health” day for students and staff. Employees are still asked by the district to work from home on that day.

Educators with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district are taking the mental health days a step further, and starting next year, hope to give students a break two times a week. On “Mindful Mondays” and “Wellness Wednesdays,” students would still come to school, but they would have a more relaxed schedule to reduce stress and anxiety.

Students will also get an extended Thanksgiving break and an additional day off in February, starting in 2022-23, officials said.

Dr. Amy Ursano, a child psychiatrist with UNC Health, said that the mental health days could add stress on parents due to child care concerns. She encourages those families to take the breaks together.

“We’ll be very generous to each other if we can just simply acknowledge that we don’t always know what we need to do, but we’re doing it together, and we’ll figure it out,” Ursano said. “I think those are gigantic messages for our children.”

One mom, Megan Stauffer, has two children in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district. She said that she is glad that the school is offering both students and their teachers a break.

“We can use these days to our advantage, to just recoup strength and then come back to school ready to go,” she said.

Click here to read the full article on WRAL.

Pediatricians say the mental health crisis among kids has become a national emergency

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Pediatricians say the mental health crisis among kids has become a national emergency

By , NPR

A coalition of the nation’s leading experts in pediatric health has issued an urgent warning declaring the mental health crisis among children so dire that it has become a national emergency.

The declaration was penned by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which together represent more than 77,000 physicians and 200 children’s hospitals.

In a letter released Tuesday, the groups say that rates of childhood mental health concerns were already steadily rising over the past decade. But the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the issue of racial inequality, they write, has exacerbated the challenges.

“This worsening crisis in child and adolescent mental health is inextricably tied to the stress brought on by COVID-19 and the ongoing struggle for racial justice and represents an acceleration of trends observed prior to 2020,” the declaration from the pediatric groups says.

When it comes to suicide in particular, the groups point to data showing that by 2018, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24.

Teenage girls have emerged particularly at risk. From February to March of this year, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were up 51% for girls ages 12 to 17, compared with the same period in 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, the data shows that in 2020, the percentage of emergency department visits for mental health emergencies rose by 24% for children between the ages of 5 and 11 and 31% for those 12 to 17, compared with 2019.

“Young people have endured so much throughout this pandemic and while much of the attention is often placed on its physical health consequences, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis facing our patients,” the American Academy of Pediatrics’ president, Dr. Lee Savio Beers, said in a statement.

The crisis affects children of color even more
The declaration from the pediatric groups notes that the disruptions children and families have experienced during the pandemic have disproportionately affected children of color.

A recent study in the journal Pediatrics showed that 140,000 children have lost a parent or grandparent caregiver to COVID-19. A majority of those children were kids of color.

The study showed that, compared with white children, Native American children were 4.5 times more likely to have lost a primary caregiver. Black children were 2.4 times more likely, and Hispanic children nearly twice as likely.

“We are caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, their communities, and all of our futures,” said Dr. Gabrielle Carlson, president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

Strength Training May Benefit Gross Motor Function in Children With Cerebral Palsy

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Strength Training May Benefit Gross Motor Function in Children With Cerebral Palsy

By Brandon May, Neurology Advisor

Strength training is associated with improvements in muscle strength, gait speed, balance, and gross motor function in children and adolescents with spastic cerebral palsy, according to study results published in Clinical Rehabilitation.

Prior research on the effects of physical training on improving functional mobility and gross motor skills has been mixed. For example, some studies have found that with muscle strengthening, muscle strength improves but not function. Other studies have reported improvement in motor activity and functions such as gait. The objective of the current study was to review the most recent data on the effect of strength training on function, activity, and participation in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy.

The meta-analysis included 27 randomized controlled trials which evaluated muscle strength training in children, adolescents, and young adults (age range, 3-22 years) with spastic cerebral palsy. In the pooled cohort of 873 patients, a total of 452 patients underwent strength training, while the remaining patients participated in a different physical therapy technique or were assigned to a control group with no physical therapy.

Researchers excluded 3 studies, yielding 24 studies in the meta-analysis. According to the researchers, there were significant standardized mean differences that were in favor of the strength training techniques vs other physical therapy techniques or control in terms of improvements in muscle strength at the knee flexors, muscle strength at the knee extensor, muscle strength at the plantar flexors, maximum resistance, balance, gait speed, Gross Motor Function Measure (global, D and E dimension), as well as spasticity.

A limitation of this meta-analysis, according to the researchers, was the high levels of moderate risk and high risk of bias among analyzed studies. Additionally, the studies in the meta-analysis did not assess the long-term effect of muscle strength training in this population. Given this limitation, the investigators noted that children with cerebral palsy should perform “high-intensity strength training regularly to maintain and ideally accumulate benefits over time.”

Click here to read the full article on Neurology Advisor.

The Most Common Types of Learning Disabilities Found in Kids and Adults, According to Experts

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having learning disabilities just means your brain operates a bit differently.

By Madeleine Burry, Explore Health

If you have a learning disability, your brain operates a bit differently. Learning disabilities occur “when someone has an impairment in learning or processing new information or skills,” Ami Baxi, MD, psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital, tells Health.

This can lead to difficulty with language, speech, reading, writing, or math.

Defining a learning disability is important—as is understanding what a learning disability isn’t.

A learning disability, or a learning disorder, is not associated with low intelligence or cognitive abilities, Sabrina Romanoff, clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City, tells Health. Nor is linked to a negative home or school environment, she adds. Instead, learning disabilities can be hereditary, or they may be brought on or exacerbated by psychological or physical trauma, environmental exposure (think: lead paint), or prenatal risks, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Learning disabilities are often diagnosed in childhood, but not always, Romanoff says. Sometimes the disability is mild and goes unnoticed by parents or teachers. Other times it’s mistaken for a lack of motivation or work ethic. In some cases it isn’t diagnosed because kids grow adept at adapting, compensating, and seeking out situations to suit their strengths, Romanoff says.

Without a diagnosis, Romanoff notes, people will lack “answers as to why they have difficulties in certain areas academically or in their daily lives as they pertain to their relationships or general functioning.” That’s unfortunate, since there are ways to overcome the differences in how people with learning disorders organize and manage information, she says.

Here’s a look at some of the most common learning disorders, some of which you’ve likely heard of and others that don’t get as much attention.

Dyslexia
This learning disability “impairs reading and spelling ability,” Holly Schiff, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Connecticut with Jewish Family Services of Greenwich, tells Health. Estimates vary, but as many as 20% of people may have dyslexia, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, which notes that it’s the most common neurocognitive disorder.

People with dyslexia struggle to read “because they have problems identifying speech sounds and learning how these relate to letters and words (known as decoding),” Schiff says. As adults, people with dyslexia will tend to avoid reading-related activities, she says. “They may also have trouble understanding jokes or expressions like idioms—where they cannot derive the meaning from the specific words used.”

Dyscalculia
For people with dyscalculia, all sorts of math-related skills—number sense, memorizing arithmetic facts, and accurate calculations—are impaired, Romanoff says.

“Dyscalculia generally refers to problems acquiring basic math skills, but not to problems with reasoning,” Romanoff says.

Tasks that require working with numbers will take longer for people with this learning disorder, Dr. Baxi says. From calculating the tip to writing down someone’s digits, numbers and math-related tasks are ever-present in life, and adults with this disorder may see the impact in many areas of life.

A 2019 study estimates that between 3-7% of people have dyscalculia.

Dysgraphia
People with this writing disability have impaired writing ability and fine motor skills, Schiff says. They find it difficult to organize letters, numbers, or words on page or other defined space, she says.

Anything letter-related is a struggle for people with dysgraphia, Dr. Baxi says. Poor handwriting is common for people with this learning disorder, she notes.

“Dysgraphia in adults manifests as difficulties with syntax, grammar, comprehension, and being able to generally put one’s thoughts on paper,” Schiff says.

Other learning conditions to know
Some conditions are not classified as learning disorders or aren’t formally recognized in the DSM-V, the diagnostic guide used by mental health professionals. But they are still worth noting, since they may overlap or come up frequently for people with learning disorders.

Nonverbal learning disorders
With this kind of disorder, visual-spatial and visual-motor skills are affected, according to the Mayo Clinic. Nonverbal learning disorders (NLVD) can affect social skills and play out as a struggle to decode body language and understand humor, Schiff says.

“Non-verbal learning disabilities are not considered learning disabilities. They are often signs of other disorders,” Dr. Baxi notes. While NLVD isn’t officially recognized, this cluster of symptoms is “recognized by neuropsychologists and in educational settings when it presents itself,” Schiff says.

Click here to read the full article on Explore Health.

It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work

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illustration to describe mental health. A person in a suit with water color design covering their face

By Kelly Greenwood and Julia Anas, Harvard Business Review

When we published our research on workplace mental health in October 2019, we never could have predicted how much our lives would soon be upended by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Then the murders of George Floyd and other Black Americans by the police; the rise in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs); wildfires; political unrest; and other major stressors unfolded in quick succession, compounding the damage to our collective mental health.

One silver lining amid all the disruption and trauma is the normalization of mental health challenges at work. In 2019, employers were just starting to grasp the prevalence of these challenges, the need to address stigma, and the emerging link to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In 2020, mental health support went from a nice-to-have to a true business imperative. Fast forward to 2021, and the stakes have been raised even higher thanks to a greater awareness of the workplace factors that can contribute to poor mental health, as well as heightened urgency around its intersections with DEI.

Although employers have responded with initiatives like mental health days or weeks, four-day workweeks, and enhanced counseling benefits or apps, they’re not enough. Employees need and expect sustainable and mentally healthy workplaces, which requires taking on the real work of culture change. It’s not enough to simply offer the latest apps or employ euphemisms like “well-being” or “mental fitness.” Employers must connect what they say to what they actually do.

Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report in partnership with Qualtrics and ServiceNow offers a rare comparison of the state of mental health, stigma, and work culture in U.S. workplaces before and during the pandemic. This follow-up study to our 2019 Mental Health at Work Report uses the same metrics and includes additional questions and segmentations on the effects of the pandemic, racial trauma, and the return to office; it also fleshes out our less comprehensive study from April 2020. As in 2019, we collected responses from 1,500 U.S. adults in full-time jobs, with statistically significant representation across racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, membership in the LGBTQ+ community, generational divides, primary caregiver statuses, levels of seniority, and other factors. Here’s a summary of what we learned and our recommendations for what employers need to do to support their employees’ mental health.

The Employee Mental Health Experience

When we examined the data on how employees experience mental health challenges, we found that prevalence increased from 2019 to 2021 and that younger and historically underrepresented workers still struggle the most.

Increased attrition. More employees are leaving their jobs for mental health reasons, including those caused by workplace factors like overwhelming and unsustainable work. While the 2019 rates of attrition were already surprisingly high, they’ve gone up even more since then. Sixty-eight percent of Millennials (50% in 2019) and 81% of Gen Zers (75% in 2019) have left roles for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily, compared with 50% of respondents overall (34% in 2019). Ninety-one percent of respondents believed that a company’s culture should support mental health, up from 86% in 2019.High prevalence. Mental health challenges are now the norm among employees across all organizational levels. Seventy-six percent of respondents reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year, up from 59% in 2019. While that’s not surprising due to the many macro stressors, it supports the notion that mental health challenges affect nearly all of us on a regular basis.
Our 2019 study showed the same prevalence of mental health symptoms across all levels of seniority, debunking the myth that successful leaders are immune. Perhaps as a result of having to lead through this unprecedented era, our 2021 study showed that C-level and executive respondents were now actually more likely than others to report at least one mental health symptom. Let’s finally put the stigma to rest and admit that mental health challenges affect us all.

Widespread disclosure. More employees are talking about mental health at work than in 2019. Nearly two-thirds of respondents talked about their mental health to someone at work in the past year. This is an important step in the right direction, especially in terms of reducing stigma, which affects willingness to seek treatment. That said, only 49% of respondents described their experience of talking about mental health at work as positive or reported that they received a positive or supportive response, which is comparable to 2019 rates.DEI implications. Demographics continue to play a strong role in workplace mental health, with younger workers and historically underrepresented groups still struggling the most. Millennials and Gen Zers, as well as LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx respondents were all significantly more likely to experience mental health symptoms. Like Millennials and Gen Zers, caregiver respondents and members of historically underrepresented groups — including LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx respondents — all were more likely to leave roles for their mental health and to believe that a company’s culture should support mental health. In fact, 54% of all respondents said that mental health is a DEI issue, an increase from 41% in 2019.

The Company’s Role in Employee Mental Health

Employees don’t experience mental health challenges in isolation. Employers play a role, too — both good and bad.

Certain workplace factors negatively affected mental health. The way we’re working isn’t sustainable, and it’s hurting our mental health. Until recently, the conversation has primarily centered on preexisting mental health conditions and the related stigma. Increasingly, the focus is on work’s effect on everyone’s mental health.

An overwhelming 84% of respondents reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health. Younger workers and members of underrepresented groups were affected even more severely. When looking across all respondents, the most common factor was emotionally draining (e.g., stressful, overwhelming, boring, or monotonous) work, which also worsened since the pandemic. This was closely followed by work-life balance.

The other workplace factors that most notably worsened since the pandemic were poor communication practices and a low sense of connection to or support from one’s colleagues or manager, perhaps unsurprising in a predominantly remote workforce. The workaholism that characterizes much of U.S. culture has only been exacerbated by the challenges of the pandemic, leading to increased employee burnout.

Companies increased investment in employee mental health — sort of. Companies are finally investing more in mental health support out of necessity, but they still haven’t achieved true culture change. Our respondents noted that the availability of many resources provided by employers grew since the pandemic, including extra paid time off, company-wide mental health days, and mental health training.

In addition, employees used accommodations to a much greater extent — especially those that provided day-to-day support. These included extended or more frequent breaks from work and time during the workday for therapy appointments. Utilization rates for other accommodations included time off and leaves of absence, which saw no growth from 2019. This highlights a contrast in what employees used versus what employers provided, which were often more temporary, Band-Aid solutions. In fact, the “resource” most desired by respondents (31%) was a more open culture around mental health.

Companies took steps toward culture change. While there is still a great deal to be done, some companies have made progress on the culture front, likely fueled by the pandemic. Fifty-four percent of respondents believed that mental health was prioritized at their company compared to other priorities, up from 41% in 2019. In addition, 47% of respondents believed that their company leaders were advocates for mental health at work (compared to 37% in 2019), and 47% believed that their manager was equipped to support them if they had a mental health condition or symptom (compared to 39% in 2019). These are both potentially results of increased training and discussion.

However, the added awareness surprisingly didn’t translate across all dimensions. There was a 5% decline in respondents who felt comfortable supporting a coworker with their mental health and a comparable percentage in who knew the proper procedure to get support for mental health at work.

Employers benefit from supporting mental health at work. Employers that have supported their employees with the pandemic, racial injustices, return-to-office planning, and/or mental health overall have better mental health and engagement outcomes. For example, workers who felt supported with their mental health overall were 26% less likely to report at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year. Respondents who felt supported by their employer also tended to be less likely to experience mental health symptoms, less likely to underperform and miss work, and more likely to feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work. In addition, they had higher job satisfaction and intentions to stay at their company. Lastly, they had more positive views of their company and its leaders, including trusting their company and being proud to work there. This reinforces the tie between workplace culture and its ability to support mental health at work when done intentionally.

What Employers Need to Provide

Employers must move from seeing mental health as an individual challenge to a collective priority. Given all the workplace factors at play, companies can no longer compartmentalize mental health as an individual’s responsibility to address alone through self-care, mental health days, or employee benefits. Here’s what they need to provide to make real progress.

Culture change. Culture change requires both a top-down and bottom-up approach to succeed. Workplace mental health is no different — our recommendations from 2019 still hold. Mind Share Partners’ Ecosystem of a Mentally Healthy Workplace Framework illustrates that everyone has a role to play, starting with leaders and managers.

Leaders must treat mental health as an organizational priority with accountability mechanisms such as regular pulse surveys and clear ownership. It should not just be relegated to HR. Leaders should serve as allies by sharing their own personal experiences to foster an environment of transparency and openness. Due to fear and shame, even companies with the best mental health benefits won’t see an uptick in usage unless a stigma-free culture exists.

Organizations have to train leaders, managers, and all employees on how to navigate mental health at work, have difficult conversations, and create supportive workplaces. Managers are often the first line in noticing changes and supporting their direct reports. Building an environment of psychological safety is key. Mental health policies, practices, culturally competent benefits, and other resources must be put in place and (over)communicated.

Investing in DEI to support employee mental health and address its intersectionality is also crucial. Black and AAPI employees have been hit especially hard by the trauma of systemic racism and violence. Workers who are caregivers — often mothers — have faced school closures and the associated burnout. Our study found that allowing employees to discuss challenging social and political topics at work is also part of a mentally healthy culture. At the grassroots level, employees should be empowered to form mental health employee resource groups (ERGs) and other affinity groups, become mental health champions, and start peer listening initiatives.

Click here to read the full article on the Harvard Business Review.

How Does Social Media Affect Your Mental Health?

LinkedIn
two phones linking social media accounts

, The New York Times

What is your relationship with social media like? Which platforms do you spend the most time on? Which do you stay away from? How often do you log on?

What do you notice about your mental health and well-being when spending time on social networks?

In “Facebook Delays Instagram App for Users 13 and Younger,” Adam Satariano and Ryan Mac write about the findings of an internal study conducted by Facebook and what they mean for the Instagram Kids app that the company was developing:

Facebook said on Monday that it had paused development of an Instagram Kids service that would be tailored for children 13 years old or younger, as the social network increasingly faces questions about the app’s effect on young people’s mental health.

The pullback preceded a congressional hearing this week about internal research conducted by Facebook, and reported in The Wall Street Journal, that showed the company knew of the harmful mental health effects that Instagram was having on teenage girls. The revelations have set off a public relations crisis for the Silicon Valley company and led to a fresh round of calls for new regulation.

Facebook said it still wanted to build an Instagram product intended for children that would have a more “age appropriate experience,” but was postponing the plans in the face of criticism.

The article continues:

With Instagram Kids, Facebook had argued that young people were using the photo-sharing app anyway, despite age-requirement rules, so it would be better to develop a version more suitable for them. Facebook said the “kids” app was intended for ages 10 to 12 and would require parental permission to join, forgo ads and carry more age-appropriate content and features. Parents would be able to control what accounts their child followed. YouTube, which Google owns, has released a children’s version of its app.

But since BuzzFeed broke the news this year that Facebook was working on the app, the company has faced scrutiny. Policymakers, regulators, child safety groups and consumer rights groups have argued that it hooks children on the app at a younger age rather than protecting them from problems with the service, including child predatory grooming, bullying and body shaming.

The article goes on to quote Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram:

Mr. Mosseri said on Monday that the “the project leaked way before we knew what it would be” and that the company had “few answers” for the public at the time.

Opposition to Facebook’s plans gained momentum this month when The Journal published articles based on leaked internal documents that showed Facebook knew about many of the harms it was causing. Facebook’s internal research showed that Instagram, in particular, had caused teen girls to feel worse about their bodies and led to increased rates of anxiety and depression, even while company executives publicly tried to minimize the app’s downsides.

But concerns about the effect of social media on young people go beyond Instagram Kids, the article notes:

A children’s version of Instagram would not fix more systemic problems, said Al Mik, a spokesman for 5Rights Foundation, a London group focused on digital rights issues for children. The group published a report in July showing that children as young as 13 were targeted within 24 hours of creating an account with harmful content, including material related to eating disorders, extreme diets, sexualized imagery, body shaming, self-harm and suicide.

“Big Tobacco understood that the younger you got to someone, the easier you could get them addicted to become a lifelong user,” Doug Peterson, Nebraska’s attorney general, said in an interview. “I see some comparisons to social media platforms.”

Click here to read the full article on the New York Times.

Disability Advocate Chelsie Hill Has the *Best* Advice for Fending Off Fitness Class Intimidation

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Chelsie Hill seated on a wheel chair in front of a pool with yellow digital background surrounding her

By Zoe Weiner, Well + Good

When Chelsie Hill was in a car accident at age 17, her “whole world was flipped upside down,” she says. A spinal cord injury left her paralyzed from the waist down, but as a lifelong dancer, she refused to let the fact that she was in a wheelchair get in the way of her passion. So two years later, in 2012, she started a wheelchair dance team called “The Rollettes.”

Hill connected with a group of women through social media who, like her, were in wheelchairs and wanted to dance. “I wanted to meet girls like me and find friends… I wanted to just feel a sense of normalcy, and feel like I wasn’t the only person in my community or in the world who got in the car with a drunk driver or became paralyzed,” she says. “When you’re by yourself and you’re alone and you’re trying to figure out life, it can be very lonely—it can feel like you’re the only one. And for me, being around these girls helped me gain a sense of confidence that I never thought I would ever get.”

In the near-decade since the Rollettes conception, the group has performed all over the world, introduced the “Boundless Babes Society” mentorship program to connect women and girls living with a range of disabilities, and grown its platform to increase visibility for people with disabilities. “I have so many little ones who come to Rollettes Experience and they look on TV and they don’t see anybody like themselves,” says Hill. “And so for us, representation and education are the two biggest things that we’re very passionate about in every way.”

Hill’s role as the team choreographer has given her the opportunity to take the dance moves she loved when she was younger and make them accessible to people with differing abilities. “I love going to dance classes and adopting the choreography from an able-bodied choreographer to make it work for me,” she says. “That’s when I get the most creative, because I am forced to do moves that my body naturally wouldn’t know how to do… but I can translate them in a way that looks similar because my body is used to all of the moves from when I was a little girl. That’s kind of the advantage I have as a wheelchair dancer: I know how all these moves are as an [able-bodied person], so I just make them work for what my ability is now.”

Even with decades of experience under her belt, though, Hill is no stranger to the oh-so-relatable experience of entering a dance or workout class and immediately feeling intimidated—something many of us can relate to. “I was always so intimidated to go into any class, especially in Los Angeles with some of the top dancers in the industry, top choreographers and me and my wheelchair rolling in and people looking at me like, ‘What is she doing here? Does she know where she is?'” she says. “So I can totally empathize with that feeling of not feeling like you’re ready.”

Click here to read the full article on Well + Good.

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Alzheimers Awareness Month

Alzheimers Awareness Month

Upcoming Events

  1. Abilities Expo — The Event For the Disability Community
    December 3, 2021 - December 5, 2021
  2. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  3. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  4. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. Abilities Expo — The Event For the Disability Community
    December 3, 2021 - December 5, 2021
  2. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  3. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  4. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022