If you’re in a room with four other adults, chances are one of you has experienced a mental health challenge — that’s according to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Yet few of us understand what mental illness is — and is not. I sat down with Deborah Miscoll, Psy.D., a psychologist and Managing Director at Deloitte to talk about mental health in the workplace. In our conversation, we discussed some of the challenges of navigating mental health treatment.
Jen Fisher: Let’s start with the bottom line: Is mental illness treatable?
Deb Miscoll: Yes. But every person is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment. And it can take some trial and error to get the right plan in place. Talk therapy may be what most people think of, but beyond that we’re seeing innovative delivery platforms to help people manage their experience with a multifocal approach. The field is rapidly expanding every day, as we learn more about the science of the brain. We’re making advances all the time; the horizon looks bright.
JF: How can you tell if you need treatment?
DM: It really comes down to determining whether you have crossed a threshold — where your work, relationships, and daily functioning are significantly impacted. Is your ability to cope with the day-to-day compromised? Self-awareness is important. Checking in on your emotional health can help you identify signals. You can also identify trouble spots with the help of insights from others.
JF: If someone feels they need support with their mental health, what should they do?
DM: Look, we can take care of ourselves in so many ways: getting enough sleep, taking time for recovery, incorporating exercise, nutrition, mindfulness into our routines. All of these things keep us performing at optimal levels. But sometimes we need a little extra help. Practicing self-awareness is similar to watching the dashboard of your vehicle. If a “check engine” light comes on, you check in with a mechanic. The same goes for your mental health — if there is a sign of trouble, you want to check in with a mental health clinician to keep yourself running smoothly. Even for people with more serious mental health challenges, good self-care and well-being practices will provide a strong foundation to build on as they pursue treatment options.
JF: It’s not always easy to access the health care system to get treatment. Do you have any advice?
DM: It can be difficult because of the many challenges that the mental health care system faces today. A confidential conversation with a licensed mental health clinician is a good start. General recommendations and referrals for mental health clinicians can come from your General Practitioner, or other community advocacy and support resources. You can also receive confidential guidance from your company’s Employee Assistance Program.
As you navigate the system, it’s important to remember that you must be a strong advocate for your own care. Take the time to educate yourself, do your due diligence, and be accountable to yourself.
JF: That’s got to be confusing for everyone involved. And then there’s the cost, right?
DM: Absolutely. The cost of care and barriers to access, those can be huge challenges. It can be especially difficult if you don’t have the support of the people around you because of the stigmas that can exist. All of that can translate into the treatment environment, further complicating care.
It’s important to take the time to understand your medical benefits and the support programs you have access to through your work or your community to maximize your coverage and minimize costs. Sometimes you can even negotiate costs with your provider for services that aren’t covered.
JF: What’s the first step for someone to take?
DM: Start out with a licensed mental health clinician — you are more likely to get an accurate diagnosis and understanding of treatment options available. Taking that first step may feel difficult, but it will put you on the path to finding the right treatment plan that works for you.
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