Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What Works? Mental Health and Crisis Services for Men

#ElevateTheConvo TWITTER CHAT

Join us on December 1st, (5:00pm PT, 6:00pm MT, 7:00 CT, 8:00pm ET)

The Twitter Chat will bring together perspectives from male mental health professionals who specialize in men’s mental health and masculinity, some of whom are also suicide attempt survivors. The Chat will be an hour long and will explore the following questions:
  • ·        How did you come into the work of suicide prevention crisis, peer support or mental health services, especially with men?
  •        What the barriers some men experience when engaging in traditional mental health services (talk therapy and medication)?
  •      What are some new ways we can better serve men who may not feel mental health services are relevant?
  •     What would you like other men to know about reaching out for mental health services (therapy, crisis, peer)?

Panelists Include:

Andrew Irwin-Smiler
Bart Andrews

Carl Dunn

Craig Bryan

Eduardo Vega
Jeff Nepute

Jonathan Singer

Sean Erreger

Eduardo Vega, CEO of Dignity Mental Health Activators International, a consulting, training and technical assistance center focused on social change, social justice, and behavioral health systems transformation driven by lived experience. An internationally recognized thought leader in recovery-oriented programs and policy, consumer/user engagement, stigma reduction, men’s health and suicide prevention, his work as a change agent and innovator continues to drive the forefront of change for mental health worldwide. @evega_mhdignity

Jeff Nepute, Staff Psychologist at CSU Health Network-Counseling Services, with a specialties in substance use/abuse, men's issues, and more recently working with clients who exhibit self-injurious and/or chronically suicidal tendencies. I work on a team that specializes in treatment for students recently released from mental health hospitalizations.  We provide DBT informed individual therapy sessions (we target suicidal behavior, parasuicidal behavior, therapy interfering behavior, and quality of life interfering behaviors), DBT informed skills groups, meetings with a Psychiatrist, and weekly staff meetings to ensure the best quality of care possible. @drjeffnepute

Craig Bryan, Executive Director, National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah. Dr. Craig J. Bryan, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified clinical psychologist in cognitive behavioral psychology, and is currently the Executive Director of the National Center for Veterans Studies at The University of Utah. He previously served in the U.S. military and deployed to Iraq in 2009. Dr. Bryan’s research focuses on developing and testing treatments for military personnel and veterans. He is considered a national expert in military and veteran suicide prevention and PTSD. @craigjbryan

Jonathan Singer, Founder & Host, Social Work Podcast. Dr. Singer's clinical and research interests focus on interventions for suicidal and cyberbullied youth; service access and service utilization; and use of technology in education and clinical practice. Dr. Singer has presented over 100 regional, national and international workshops, scholarly papers, keynotes, continuing education trainings and webinars for the U.S. Military, community mental health agencies, school districts, and clinical social work organizations on topics such as: suicide in schools, Attachment-Based Family Therapy, child and adolescent therapies, suicide risk assessment and intervention, cyberbullying, adolescent development, and ethics & technology. He is the author of 50 publications, including the 2015 Routledge text, Suicide in Schools. @socworkpodcast

Bart Andrews, Vice President-Clinical Practice/Evaluation, Behavioral Health Response. Bart Andrews, PhD, is Vice President of Clinical Practice/Evaluation at Behavioral Health Response.  Dr. Andrews is the President of the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors, Co-Chair of the Suicide Lifeline’s Standards, Training and Practices committee, a member of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s (SPRC) Steering Committee, an SPRC  ZeroSuicide Academy Faculty member and member of the American Association of Suicidology’s Executive Board of Directors. Dr. Andrews is a suicide attempt survivor and a proponent of embracing of lived expertise in our suicide prevention efforts. Dr. Andrews believes that the path to suicide prevention must be framed in the context of relationships, community, and culture.  Dr. Andrews was recognized as one of the top 21 mental health professionals of 2015 to follow on Twitter and can be found @bartandrews.

Sean Erreger. I am Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW, MSW) in New York State with an undergraduate degree in psychology. I have over a decade of practice experience in a variety of settings including foster care prevention, psychiatric emergency room, adolescent day treatment, and adult inpatient. I am currently a clinical case manager for children and adolescents at risk of inpatient psychiatric hospitalization and/or out of home placement. @StuckonSW

Andrew Irwin-Smiler, PhD is a therapist and author in Winston-Salem NC. His practice focuses on teen boys and men of all ages who want help with relationship challenges, depression, anxiety problems, sexual identity and dysfunction issues, and gender identity concerns. He is the author of several books about guys, most recently "Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy." @andrewsmiler

Carl Dunn. Carl Dunn is a mental health educator in Houston who as part of BPD Support & Recovery works to educate and support people and families dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder. Additionally, he has the "lived experience" of dealing with his own past depression. Carl moderates a weekly international peer Twitter chat for people with Borderline Personality Disorder called #BPDChat. He is active in social media efforts advancing mental health (including the #SPSM suicide prevention community). @CarlDunnJr

Monday, November 21, 2016

“If it ain’t broke...” it ain’t getting better – Mindset Matters in Men’s Health

By Zachary Gerdes

We all know the guy driving the beater to work. The guy who drives the 1992 Geo that he got from his uncle Jim in exchange for a hundred bucks and a 6-pack. When he fires that bad boy up after work, everyone gets to comment on the beautiful bronze of the rusted out rims or how it sounds like toxic waste is getting sucked through a curly straw when he revs it (to avoid killing it). Geo Guy might fire back at these “compliments” with the old adage, “If it ain’t broke ….” Then he’ll drive that sucker until there’s 250k on the speedometer and more money sunk into it than it was worth when they stopped making them.

The kicker is, a ton of men are Geo Guy when it comes to health: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In other words: “Unless I can see the bone sticking out of my arm, I’m not going to the doctor,” or “I can’t see chunks of brain falling out my ears, so the heck with talking to some shrink about anger or stress.” Men often default to the “it ain’t broke” mentality especially when it comes to mental health. As men, we can laugh at the guy who says he goes 20,000 miles without changing the oil in his Geo but then be proud that we haven’t been to a doctor in years?

Doing something for your mental health isn’t about sprawling on a couch talking about your relationship with your mother. You don’t have to check your manhood at the door when talking about issues like stress, anger, relationships, and other mental health stuff. It’s not about whining for help, it’s about grabbing life by the balls with tools and resources to be better. Like taking a 20 point head inspection to see how you’re faring.

There’s nothing weak about being a better man, husband, and father. Sometimes being a man means knowing where to go for the right answers. Research tells us that the more men rely solely on themselves, the less courage, resilience, endurance, self-esteem, and life satisfaction they have. That’s why Man Therapy exists: to connect men with answers rather than hang them out to dry alone.

Men are more likely to kill themselves than women because things like depression and anxiety are real. In response, a lot of guys will self-medicate with alcohol and other substances instead of taking their brain to the shop. When life throws some diesel into your regular tank, try going to the experts. Or maybe give breathing a shot, the way a man does it. Mental health treatment is about keeping the engine clean. Whether it’s time for an oil change or a trade in, it’s prime time to get better. 


Zachary Gerdes writes about men’s issues for Man Therapy as well as MindsandMen.org and various academic journals. He teaches psychology at the University of Akron and has worked with students, veterans, first responders, and the criminal justice system. He consults with universities and other groups developing resources for men. He is a member of the American Psychological Association’s Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity (Division 51). Email him: z@mindsandmen.org

Minding The Mind – Human Resources’ Vital Role In Mental Health And Suicide Prevention In The Workplace.

Guest Blog By Jeff Vanek

Not that long ago an employee came into my office to tell me that his brother had died from suicide. I was shocked and heartbroken. I wasn’t sure what to do for him, let alone what to say. I asked if he needed time to take care of matters and informed him about our paid bereavement leave policy. I wished we had an employee assistance program I could have referred him to, but like many small to medium sized organizations, we didn’t. I felt a bit lost. What more could I do? How could I help this employee?

As Human Resources (HR) Professionals, we are the point person in our organizations when it comes to dealing with employee issues, especially those that have an effect on employee performance and well-being in the workplace. There are few things that affect our workplaces like mental health issues. Your employee’s personal struggles or tragedies are often not confined to them alone, as the effects of a suicide or mental health issues often spill into the workplace affecting other’s productivity. Unfortunately, there is little or no training available for HR Professionals on the topic of suicide and mental health. This needs to change because Human Resources job is to maximize human capital—or to be more human about it, help people be their best so they can give their best in their job and at work.

Shortly after the employee whose brother died from suicide came into my office, I began to look for resources I could offer our employees. I wanted to be a better resource for our employees when it came to mental health issues. Rather fortuitously, I found out about a Working Minds Summit being held in town that very week from one of our Board Members who made arrangements for me to attend. It was at this summit that I learned a great deal about mental health issues in the workplace and what employers can do to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority.

I went to the summit feeling pretty clueless about what can be done for employees or what resources are available. By the end of the day, that had changed. I also came to an important realization, Human Resources is on the frontline and are the first responders to mental health issues in the workplace—whether we realize it or not. Human Resources is the go-to source in our companies and organizations for people issues—whether they are sent to us or they come knocking on our door. Our value as HR Professionals is in our ability to increase our capacity to help people function. If we are to help people function at their best, we must, at minimum, understand that people have minds that need to be tended. In the fight to raise mental health and suicide prevention awareness in the workplace, Human Resources is ground zero.

Even so, HR Professionals receive very little in the way of training on how to deal with people as multidimensional beings – mind and body. Rather, the majority of training focuses on compliance. We are trained how to handle an ADA claim but not given much in way of resources on how to help the individual. Our focus is on maneuvering through the legal landmines and protecting the organization while the employee remains an object to be “handled” in an “appropriate” way. We are afraid of doing the wrong thing, and therefore getting the organization in trouble. The only reason this is the case, however, is that there is relatively little training for people in Human Resources on how to handle mental health issues in the workplace.

I don’t disagree with all the compliance requirements. It is a necessary and important part of our job. It can also be argued with a great deal of legitimacy that we are not mental health specialists nor should try to become such. No problem there. What I learned while attending a Working Minds Summit, however, made me realize that there are many things the HR Professional can and should be doing in regard to the mental health of employees. For instance, one can become aware of the signs that might indicate something is wrong in an employee’s life—increased absentness lately, maybe not as focused as they used to be or they are acting a lot more down than usual. When something like this is observed, learn how to ask, not pry, if there is something you can do for or help the employee with. Learn how to listen for clues of mental stress and struggles. Learn what free and other resources are out there so you can suggest them to your employees. Does your medical benefits plan include mental health options? Often employees are not aware of this.

HR Professionals should know where we can direct people to resources and professionals who can help with mental health issues—beyond the EAP phone number. By understanding these issues, HR Professionals can respond with compassion, confidence, and competence, rather than reacting with fear.  HR doesn’t need to take on a counselor role, but they do need to have good judgment in making decisions to best support their most valuable business resource—employee’s minds. It really is a no brainer. Good mental health is paramount to having employees who can give us the best of their minds, creativity, and engagement.

As HR Professionals, we are charged with the enhancement of human capital—i.e. get the best performance we can out of our employees. In today’s economy and consequently in most businesses, the true value of an employee is his or her mind, not so much his or her physical ability. Even in labor-intensive fields, we need intelligent labor—technology is being used and incorporated in so many places now. Caring for the wellbeing of the mind had become even more important to a productive workplace. Our knowledge-based economy has made it so. It’s an opportunity for the professional to step up to the plate and offer real strategic value to our organizations. (See the blog post, HR Rocks.)

In the days when physical labor was more common in our places of work, it was not uncommon to see physical injuries. Cuts, muscle strains, or disease from exposure to harmful chemicals or environments were recognized and treated accordingly. These types of injuries were easy to “see” and treatment was pretty straight forward. Progressive organizations recognized the value of healthy workers to the bottom-line and provided not just treatment, but prevention.
In a knowledge based economy, physical injuries might not be as common as they once were but metal health issues are becoming more evident, although often not as “visible” as a broken arm might be. In addition, mental health issues originate in the brain which is often perceived as being a more mysterious organ to understand and treat. The brain is, however, like every other organ in the body in that is it also subject to adverse conditions, even if those conditions aren’t as visible as physical hazards on a factory floor. This means that there are treatments and preventive measures that can be taken for mental health issues. Education is the key.

HR Professionals need to take the initiative to learn about and educate their workforce on mental health resources. After all, it’s one of the assets we want and value most from our employees—a healthy, productive mind. We in the Human Resources profession can truly add value to our organizations by knowing how to take care of our human capital, in both mind and body.

I went to the Working Minds Summit wondering what I could do for my employee’s mental wellbeing and came away knowing not only what I could do but also the important role that Human Resources can and should play in the mental wellbeing of employees. When I was in Boy Scouts, I learned how to give first aid for physical injuries at a merit badge workshop. As an HR Professional, I learned about first aid for the mind at the Working Minds Summit. Both skills can save a life. It’s time we as HR Professionals step up our skill set. Our businesses will be better for it, as will the individuals who we call employees.


Jeff Vanek is a Human Resources Professional and attorney with a Master’s in Science and Technology. He enjoys helping people grow personally and professionally. Jeff is the author of, Somehow I Thought I Would Be Taller: Finding the Courage You Need To Grow Personally & Professionally. This award winning book takes a humorous look at life and career. He lives at the base of Mt. Olympus with his wife, two boys, and dog Lucille Esmeralda McGillicuddy Ricardo Vanek—who just goes by “Lucy” most days. He can be reached at ThinkTaller.com