Welcome

The daily grind doesn't have to grind you down.

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"Well, [pronoun]'s a real piece of work."

Ever heard this phrase?  (Ever used it yourself?) 

Not really a way you’d want to be described, right?  

I first heard it when I was a kid, and it signaled conflict and frustration. It was what someone said when they wanted to place a person or thing “in a box,” to label it or dismiss it.

Word associations tend to stick when they’re formed early, and years later I heard myself say those words as I dismissed tough criticism from a client. Rather than taking it in and examining how that client could have been better served, I decided they must have been the root cause of the relationship souring.

Later, it got me thinking:

Everybody gets frustrated at work. It usually passes... but this has been hanging with me for a while. It's making me irritable, tired and ineffective. Is this really how I want to feel about my work, and the people around me?

I decided it wasn’t, and I soon left that job. But I suspected more people felt the way did, and for similar reasons, than were willing or able to talk about it.

The name's not just a play on words.

For many Americans, feeling powerless, stuck or dissatisfied while at work is a familiar part of life. But for some (such as those managing a mood disorder like anxiety or depression), rather than just being a passing annoyance, these feelings present extra challenges.

The Peace of Work seeks to explore those challenges and make the situation better: to take a close look at the factors in today’s workplace that impact well-being, and to see if telling our own stories can help to drive larger changes.

Eventually, at TPOW we want to provide workers with mood disorders a place to find help; to feel less isolated at work and elsewhere; and to play a small part in de-stigmatizing depression and anxiety in the workplace. In short, to find peace.

We can't (and shouldn't) do this alone.

We’re new on the scene, and (so far) only a few folks have stepped up to share their observations, insights and challenges.

If you have a story to tell, please drop us a line using the contact form below.

Mood disorder prevalence

Exhibit: Prevalence of self-reported anxiety and depression in 2017, by percentage of U.S. state population (from most to least prevalent). 

Click the “fullscreen” arrows to enlarge the slides.

A few interesting outliers emerge here:

  • In Utah and Washington D.C., for example, self-reported depression appeared in smaller percentages than other states. It could be that these areas are uniquely prone to local social pressures (politically-motivated competitiveness and concentration of a single religious viewpoint, respectively) that make it more difficult to openly discuss mental health.

  • Hawaii contradicts a general trend in which self-reported depression trailed self-reported anxiety by a consistent margin; depression was reported more commonly there than anxiety. Further study is needed, but unique financial pressures may play a role (e.g., the necessity to import most goods from the mainland and re-sell them at a higher cost; and, a service economy that is disproportionately dependent on one industry segment (travel and tourism) to support its economy.
Anxiety, 2017
Depression, 2017

Exhibit: Self-reports of mild anxiety and mild depression, respectively, in mainland U.S. counties during 2017. Click each map to enlarge it. 

Counties with higher overall population density will appear darker on the map, but this underscores an important point: no geography in the U.S. is immune from the effects of mood disorders.

prevalence

Mood disorders don't discriminate.

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mood disorders known to medicine. And, both exist in every community in the United States (and around the world). 

But they’re as unique as the people who feel them. Short-term or long-term, situational or clinical… responsive to treatment, or not. And they affect every individual differently, too.

Does anything about this prevalence data surprise you? Let us know.

According to these statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health and data from 2016, major depressive episodes in the U.S. were more prevalent:

  • Among women;
  • Between ages 18-25 (becoming less prevalent as age increased); and 
  • Among White people, followed (in order) by people identifying as Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Native Alaskan.

Prevalence of mood disorder reporting is driven, in part, by a person’s comfort level in talking about mental health. 

And, estimates of how many people seek and obtain help are affected by their ability to access and pay for mental health care; if they can’t find a provider they can afford, they never hit the numbers. 

And they might look elsewhere for “help” (such as self-medicating through substance abuse)…or just go it alone.

There’s no getting around it: 

  • Access to help is not equal.
  • Comfort with openly discussing mental health is not the same in all cultural and ethnic groups.
  • Neither is the level of stigma attached to it.

Many contemporary filmmakers who are People of Color have spoken about their experiences with mood disorders, and the ways in which they are differently stigmatized within their communities.

You can suggest additional content for inclusion in this list, by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.

Copyrights on linked material in this list are the property of their respective owners, and The Peace of Work/Matt Mason Communications makes no claim to copyright or involvement in their creation.

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“A bit of my story, and why I created this site.” – Matt

mental health parity

They can touch all parts of our lives...

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, each year 40 million Americans are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and another 18 million with some form of depression. Ranging from the mild and occasional to the chronic and debilitating, it’s likely that every one of us knows at least one person whose life has been touched by a mood disorder.

Unfortunately, today’s U.S. healthcare system takes an indifferent (and sometimes hostile) stance toward equitable treatment for mental health care and related disorders. Insurers are intent on putting up financial barriers to access, and lawmakers won’t sponsor legislation to prevent it unless they see a sufficient political upside. As mental illness is among the most difficult issues to discuss publicly, many voices are never heard.

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On June 3, 2013, the White House hosted a National Conference on Mental Health at as part of the Obama administration’s effort to launch a national conversation about mental health. Watch a short excerpt of the President’s remarks, above.

Overview: Mental health parity and the law

Unless you’ve had first-hand experience paying for mental health care or substance abuse treatment for yourself or a loved one, you might not be aware that it isn’t covered in the same way as other illnesses or injuries. Before the mid 1990s, insurers weren’t required by law to cover such services at all … so, most didn’t.

As a result, millions of people who might have benefited from therapy, medication or other interventions either found them unaffordable, or didn’t seek them out at all. 

The Mental Health Parity Act improved things somewhat by making it illegal for insurers to put more restrictive annual or lifetime limits on covered mental health care than they put on other types of medical care.

Further legislation (known as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, or MHPAEA) was signed in 2008, as a rider on the TARP law following the collapse of the U.S. housing market. MHPAEA required insurers to gradually bring co-pays, coinsurance and numbers of medical visits more in line with other care.

In the intervening 10 years, legislative progress has slowed. Insurers have found loopholes and imposed other types of caps, to legally limit care and skirt the spirit of the law.

As of this writing (2018), true parity is still a goal rather than a reality. 

Here are some resources to help you learn more about the challenge of achieving mental health parity, and how you can help.

About policy and the law:

About advocacy and achieving parity:

Cheryl Potts, Executive Director of the Kennedy Forum Illinois, describes the Forum’s mission, and the need for parity in treatment of mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Ask your government officials where they stand.

Ten years after the bipartisan Wellstone/Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was signed into law, mental health care coverage varies widely according to state laws and state-specific insurance practices. No related federal legislation is pending.

Locate and contact your representatives in Congress, and in your state:

Find out how they voted, and see what’s on their docket now:

If access to mental health and substance abuse treatment (and the ways in which they’re paid for) are important issues to you, ask your government representatives to get engaged. Let them know how you think they should vote… and remind them that you will, too.

Effective EAPs need employer engagement

Cheryl Potts, Executive Director of the Kennedy Forum (Illinois), speaks on the value of employee assistance programs and how to make them most effective for companies and their employees.

Safety and harassment concerns

When an employee feels unsafe, performance suffers. Add a mood disorder to the mix (and the mistaken belief that it has to remain a secret), and stress levels can skyrocket.

Gender equality in the workplace

Old disparities in the way women are treated at work and compensated (relative to men) are stubbornly hanging on. And, in a climate where some feel emboldened to act disrespectfully, fighting apathy is more important than ever.

workplace well-being

...Including the workplace.

Despite the best efforts of some well-meaning human resources departments, employees and their organizations generally don’t see eye-to-eye on workplace well-being.

  • Most companies recognize the connection between emotionally healthy employees and increased productivity, but many don’t have the knowledge or resources to provide in-house support services. 
  • Some other employers believe that providing mental health coverage as part of their medical plans is enough. But rising deductibles and poorly understood insurance plans mean employer-provided mental well-being programs don’t get used.
  • More than 3/4 of benefits managers and middle managers were of the opinion that employees don’t hurt their chances of getting ahead at work when they go public with their depression or anxiety. But only about 40 percent of employees agree, according to a joint study (summarized in this article) conducted in 2004 by the University of Michigan Depression Center and Eli Lilly.
  • Employees are savvy enough to see the self-serving side of their company’s investment in mental health, and they’re not convinced by HR’s assurances that their health status and other sensitive information will be kept confidential.

Employers continue to try to bridge the employee trust gap, and fortunately, many business leaders are starting to see supporting mental health as a high-return investment. 

The companies who do it most effectively are the ones who integrate well-being into their culture, their “corporate DNA.” Offering an employee assistance program (EAP) isn’t the whole answer, but it’s a good start.

Further reading

the search

Whether you're looking for work...

Job hunting’s one of the least comfortable experiences going. (And that’s without anxiety or depression weighing you down.)

But if you’ve got one or the other, you’re probably used to feeling like you have to be perfect – no typos on the resume, no cat hair on your suit, no wrong words during the interview. 

But guess what.

While that’s stuff’s obviously important, the more important part is that you show up as yourself…the best version of yourself that you can be.

And no, it’s not smart to put your mood disorder on display at the interview, nor to open up about it to just anyone. Don’t underestimate the amount of legwork, informational interviewing, and in-depth research you’ll want to do to see if your “dream job” really is going to be the right fit. 

Don’t just cram their mission statement into your brain before the interview, either. Really look into it, and ask around. Here’s an incomplete list of good places to start your research:

Know your rights

We’ll bet you didn’t know that under some circumstances, you’re allowed to ask for accommodations during a job interview to make them less stressful. For example, if you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety and can’t cope with day-long, marathon interviews with a dozen different people without shutting down or tearing your hair out, you can ask their HR department to space them out.

The drawback: you’ll have told your potential employer that if they hire you, you might need additional support. But under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the potential employer isn’t allowed to make an employment decision about you on the basis of asking for accommodations, if you are otherwise qualified for the job.

About the interviews

Erin opens up about feeling inadequate in the face of job interviews, and reminds us how important it is to surround yourself with people who will both (a) cheer you on unconditionally; and (b) shoot straight with you about how you can improve your preparation.

Jeff describes an all-too-common scenario: recruiters who will say whatever they must to “sell” you the job, only to cut off all follow-up communication without giving you an answer. But the message he leaves us with at the end of this clip is probably the most important thing to remember during your job search.

Tips for landing your dream gig

Searching for a job effectively can be hindered when you’re also coping with a mood disorder. Some recent graduates and experienced professionals share some of their best advice for job seekers.

Is recruiting broken?

After winning a student Emmy and completing his Master’s degree with honors, Jeff opened his own video production business.

(In other words, he’s sharp and motivated. So why weren’t recruiters more interested?)

You got the job! (So, stop auditioning.)

When we’re getting started on a new job or career track, the temptation to be “everything to everyone” can be very high. Julie and Jeff remind us to keep things in perspective, ask questions, and seek balance internally.

Find your humor "peeps"

Julie makes her living helping her clients “find the funny” in challenging situations. It’s tough to do it when you’re feeling isolated; humor can help you find your “peeps” at work.

the first 90 days

Getting established...

“Congratulations! You’re hired.”

Now what?

Don’t overthink it. You’ve got a world of new opportunities ahead of you, with new people to meet and new mountains to climb. Rather than spinning up the Anxiety Engine by thinking about “shoulds” – everything you should do, everyone you should meet, all the imagined situations you should be able to control before they’ve ever even come to pass – take a moment to feel proud of where you are.

Just like job searching, getting your feet under you at a new gig isn’t something you can do alone (nor should you try). Make sure you’re talking on a regular basis to whomever assesses your performance, to set clear two-way expectations. He/she/they should be ready, willing and able to help you make a plan to meet (or exceed) those expectations, and you should be able to feel comfortable making it known what you’ll need, to be able to consistently function at your best.

About the interviews

Julie and Jeff offer some tips about asking clarifying questions when you’re finding your way in the early days, and remembering that you – and the people around you – are only human, with their own sets of worries and problems. (We’re in it together – so don’t sweat it.)

Humor builds rapport, says Julie. Even if you don’t think you’re funny, think about how many times a day you can “find the funny” in a situation – and share it. Like-minded “peeps” will find you.

...and beyond

Or already doing your life's work...

Managing your career isn’t something you can plan too far in advance, so throw out that “twenty-year plan” you’ve been working on. If you’re holding yourself accountable for thinking in chunks much bigger than five years, you’re probably stressing yourself out unnecessarily.

But whatever the increments you’re using, remember to look for ways to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Meet new people, volunteer for new opportunities…and when you start telling yourself that you’re not capable of doing more than you already are, tell that voice to take a hike.

On average, you’re likely to undergo three or more full-blown career changes during your lifetime. There’s nothing wrong with you, or with that number – people change, and often, jobs don’t.

Embrace it.

About the interviews

Paul knew, more than half a century ago, that his life’s work was waiting for him on stage. He was successful, busy and having a blast. But he also knew that being a husband and a father were their own kinds of work, too – so he made an important choice.

It took him a little while, but Jeff eventually lived through that “I’ve got to get out of here” moment. Work was stagnating, leadership behaviors were confusing, and he started to question his own worth.  

Success sometimes means sacrifice

Paul has been an actor for over fifty years, many of them alongside Patricia, his wife and a fellow Chicago actor. He still acts, from time to time…but here, he talks about balancing it with the joys and challenges of raising a family.

Knowing when to walk away

Jeff describes the moment when he decided it was OK to leave a job that made him miserable, choosing instead to strike out on his own as a freelancer.

Erin's Peace of Work: Thoughtful co-workers

Jeff's Peace of Work: Losing himself in editing

There is hope

You can find your Peace of Work.

Hopefully, everyone has a part of their job that they can point to and say they do it better than anyone they know. Or, they love it more than they ever thought they would.

It might even be the thing – the moment, the feeling, the task – that brings them peace in their work.

Gets them out of their own heads, stops them watching the clock, and maybe even gets them up out of bed in the morning (voluntarily).

If you haven’t found that yet, know that it’s not a race or a competition. Keep at it… and keep talking to people who can help you find your core skills, your innate talents and the things you can learn to do better than anyone.

help is out there

Need help? Just ask.

Disclaimer

We at the Peace of Work are not mental health care professionals; the material on this site, including any linked resources, is absolutely not a substitute for professional and/or clinical assistance. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

If you or someone you know are in pain, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. There you’ll find free, confidential help 24/7 for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

The National Alliance On Mental Illness is a nationwide grassroots advocacy group, representing people affected by mental illness in the United States. NAMI provides education and advocacy by shaping public policy for those suffering the effects of mental illness.

HealthPartners/MakeItOK.org

HealthPartners, a community health system based in Minnesota, has created a mental health initiative called Make It OK, dedicated to breaking the stigma of mood disorders and other mental illness. 

They’re also a sponsoring partner of the “The Hilarious World of Depression” podcast (see elsewhere in this section to listen to the latest episode).

Mental Health America

(Formerly the National Mental Health Association)

MHA is a community non-profit advocacy organization committed to improving mental health for all Americans. They offer a free online mental health screening tool, to help you decide if talking to a professional will help you. 

Recommended media

If you’re balancing a career with a mood disorder, remember that you’re not in it alone. John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft, talked openly about his struggle and the help he found from his co-founder and family.

A show about clinical depression…with laughs? Well, yeah. Depression is an incredibly common and isolating disease experienced by millions, yet often stigmatized by society. The Hilarious World of Depression is a series of frank, moving, and, yes, funny conversations with people who have dealt with this disease, hosted by veteran humorist and public radio host John Moe.

Minnesota Public Radio

You know how every day someone asks "how are you?" And even if you’re totally dying inside, you just say "fine," so everyone can go about their day? This show is the opposite of that. Hosted by author and notable widow (her words) Nora McInerny, this is a funny/sad/uncomfortable podcast about talking honestly about our pain, our awkwardness, and our humanness, which is not an actual word.

American Public Media

Welcome to the Anxiety Road Podcast, the involuntary journey finding treatment options for people that have anxiety or panic attacks and related disorders. This podcast is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in the podcast is intended to be a substitute for medical or mental health treatment.

Produced by Gena Haskett
PARTICIPATE

Got your own story to tell?

We’re just getting started.

We’ve been lucky to find a few folks willing to talk about managing mood disorders while steering successful careers, or coping with workplace factors that can affect mental health. But, we’re always looking for more.

A goal for the future is to give our visitors a chance to contribute your own stories and ideas, and upload your own content, in an effort to help others feel less alone.

If you want to help, or if you know someone we should talk to, drop us a line using this contact form. 

Special thanks

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