Thursday, August 9, 2018

Mental Illness in the Family: Your Employee Newsletter Can Help

A free article for your employees follows this discussion, but visit here to get more free content and start a subscription (if you like--there is no "bill" or credit card needed) to FrontLine Employee newsletter

This post discusses mental illness in the family, how your newsletter for employees can reach out, and tips for how to do it. But the free article for your newsletter is at the very bottom.

Each year millions of Americans are diagnosed with mental illness. And most of them work. Do any work for your company? If you have more than say eight employees, you can bet on it.

Are there employees in your work organization with mentally ill family members? Absolutely. It's probably close to 1 out of 5. Most will keep it a secret, however. That's because there is still a great stigma attached to being mentally ill. And that is not going away any time soon.

Family members commonly feel an overwhelming sense of helplessness and may secretly blame themselves about mentally illness, believing something they did caused the family member’s mental illness. This is especially true of older children and teenagers.

Pre-teens and teenagers are at that confusing time in their lives where they know everything and nothing, act secure but are petrified with worry and guilt. Hormones rage. They are highly susceptible to guilt and suggestion, peer pressure, and mentor influence (a good thing.) They blame themselves for lots of stuff, which is what makes suicidal thinking a significant issue for this age group.

Although small children may be traumatized by mental illness depending on how overt its manifestations are, teenagers are the unaddressed most-guilt-ridden group. Newsletter articles can infiltrate this arena of need.

Since family members are often key to intervention, helping them cope is crucial to helping those with mental illness. Again, use the newsletter to target issues.

Does your company have an employee assistance program? Be sure your employee newsletter guides employees and encourages them to use it. Do so regularly to reduce risk and turnover in your organization.

If your EAP has only a hotline on the back of the insurance card to guide people to an EAP or mental health help, then hold everything, and look for a high-touch EAP in your community to serve your organization. There is one, or phone me and I will locate it for you. This is how you reduce risk in your organization -- from presenteeism to violence. No hotline or managed care referral number will suffice like a "high-touch" EAP with counselors that visit your organization, know your culture, and spot the needs yet addressed.


Employee newsletter articles should be positive. Always put a positive angle on even the worst problems. This is easy to do. Simply focus on the solution after mentioning the problem. Always

Regarding mental illness, encourage family members to be proactive. A good topic to discuss is avoiding the trap of shame and isolation. Push employees  with your newsletter content to reach out for support and a listening ear.

Consider helping your employees with articles that encourage them to avoid the trap of overprotecting a family member from the stigma of mental illness.

Alcoholism is not mental illness, but it has the same dynamic of protection and cover-up and affects 1 our of four families. Tell employees in news articles that the stigma of mental illness is fast disappearing, and new medications for mental disorders are continually being researched. It's true.

Be hopeful and realistic. Many people with mental illness and multiple hospitalizations are capable of holding full-time, responsible jobs with the aid of proper medication and support. 

Don’t ignore the needs of children with your newsletter articles. They may not read it of course, but parents do.

Although mental illness should not be the focal point of a family's life, share information with them that can reduce their fear and anxiety. 


Understand patient responsibility in recovery. A key principal in mental health treatment is patients taking personal responsibility for managing their illness. Help employees not become enablers that undermine this important principle. This includes medication compliance. Family members often unwittingly undermine this dynamic by doing too much "taking care of." Often this is out of guilt.

Encourage care-giving employees to take care of themselves. Encourage them to maintain balance in their own lives. This is a conscious process. It does not happen automatically. Your employees can suffer from lack of sleep, nutrition, exercise, fun, and stress management. This will affect your bottom line and even contribute to turnover, which is very costly.

Also, give  your employees self-help resources. They can take charge, get help, and get the help they need to draw a balance between concern and detachment. Again, your company EAP (if you have one) should be the #1 go-to resource.

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Mental Illness in the Family 
Each year millions of Americans are diagnosed with mental illness. Family members commonly feel an overwhelming sense of helplessness and may secretly blame themselves, believing something they did caused the family member’s mental illness. Since family members are often key to intervention, helping them cope is crucial to helping those with mental illness.
Avoid the trap of shame and isolation. Reach out for support and a listening ear. Avoid the trap of overprotecting your family member from the stigma of mental illness. That stigma is fast disappearing, and new medications for mental disorders are continually being researched.
Be hopeful and realistic. Many people with mental illness and multiple hospitalizations are capable of holding full-time, responsible jobs with the aid of proper medication and support.
Don’t ignore the needs of children. Although mental illness should not be the focal point in your family, share information with them suitable to their age level that can reduce their fear and anxiety.
Understand patient responsibility in recovery. A key principal in mental health treatment is patients taking personal responsibility for managing their illness. This includes medication compliance.
Take care of yourself! Maintain balance in your own life. Family members often suffer from lack of sleep, nutrition, exercise, fun, and stress management. Self-help resources can help you draw a balance between concern and detachment. Your EAP can help you find them.


Learn about the illness. Learn about the type of mental illness that affects your family member. Know its relapse warning signs so you can act early if intervention is necessary. 

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