Community//

With Beau Henderson & Ken Cahill

Like with any crisis that dominates the news cycle, the sheer amount of coverage can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to lose yourself in a sea of online and social media updates on the coronavirus. Try and limit your time reading, watching and listening to news updates to once or twice per day. Avoid reading […]

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Like with any crisis that dominates the news cycle, the sheer amount of coverage can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to lose yourself in a sea of online and social media updates on the coronavirus. Try and limit your time reading, watching and listening to news updates to once or twice per day. Avoid reading sensational media that can provide unreliable information that can increase levels of fear and anxiety.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken Cahill. Ken is the CEO and co-founder of SilverCloud Health with offices in Boston, Dublin, and London. SilverCloud is the world’s leading digital mental health platform. It enables the delivery of clinically validated digital therapeutic care programs that are proven to significantly improve clinical outcomes and increase access and scale, while reducing care delivery costs. Prior to founding SilverCloud Health, Ken held senior positions in several multinational companies including, Dell, HP, and Gateway. Ken received the 2018 MedTech Boston 40 under 40 award and holds a BSc. degree in computing, a diploma in new business and a certificate in company direction from the Institute of Directors.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Ken! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Interms of my academic background, I received a BSc in Computing and a Diploma in New Business Management from the Technological University in Dublin, and a Certificate in Company Direction from the Institute of Directors in London. I come from an entrepreneurial background, and prior to co-founding SilverCloud Health, I held senior positions in several multinational technology companies including, Dell, HP, and Gateway. Like us all, I have close friends and family members who had mental health challenges growing up, so I became extremely interested in looking at how technology can be used to address some of the key challenges in healthcare and, more specifically, how technology can provide meaningful access to effective mental health supports and treatment. Mental health is at the center of everything we do — it shapes our outlook on life, our relationships and friendships, our career, our physical health, our resilience, and so many more aspects of our life. While 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year, stigma and barriers to access prevent many from receiving the proper care they need and deserve. This is ultimately what led me and the research team to develop SilverCloud — the extreme social need for an effective and clinically validated digital product helped to form the research project that led to SilverCloud. In 2012, SilverCloud was spun out from the Technology Enhanced Therapy (TET) project, a three-year joint translational research project undertaken jointly by the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC), Trinity College Dublin and Parents Plus, Mater University Hospital in Ireland. Today, SilverCloud Health is the global leader in accessible, scalable, digital behavioral healthcare backed by 17+ years of clinical research and validation, delivering results on par or greater than traditional forms of behavioral therapy.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Values are more than just a part of the decor — they should be woven into an organization’s activities at all levels of the business. At SilverCloud our values are Integrity, Innovation, Caring, Collaboration and Effectiveness. If your values do not have ‘teeth’, where you are willing to lose money, prestige or comfort in pursuit of those values, they will remain just words on a wall. Empowering others to call out those values is essential to them becoming living and breathing within an organization.

At SilverCloud Health, we believe that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is essential to developing a culture where these values are aligned with the impact we as a company have on society, including our own stakeholders and the environment.

Companies can benchmark their CSR activities against the five-pillar framework of CSR:

-Regional Communities

-Environment

-Workplace

-Marketplace

-Governance & Communications

These pillars allow organizations of all types to take a holistic approach to planning and developing sustainable policies that will create lasting positive change within their organization and further afield.

From an employee wellness perspective, maintaining mental wellbeing is crucial — mental illness is the single greatest cause of worker disability in the U.S., accounting for 62 percent of missed work days.

For companies looking to evaluate digital mental health offerings for their employees, here are a few factors to consider:

  • Outcomes: What specific and demonstrable outcomes can the company produce, based on significant, lasting clinical change via validated patient reported outcomes, measures and assessments? For reported outcomes, what is the sustained duration?
  • Cost-effectiveness/ROI: Does the solution demonstrate direct and/or indirect cost savings?
  • Clinical validation and research: Are the solutions evidence based or simply evidence informed? Have they been clinically evaluated with published trial results, including clinically meaningful outcomes in peer-reviewed journals? Have they been proven in randomly controlled trials? Is there continued investment in research to validate the solutions’ efficacy?
  • Ease of deployment and ease of use: How quickly can the solution be deployed and in use? How is the satisfaction and engagement of users? Are there measurement metrics to support this? What is the level of user experience and acceptance via multiple devices and delivery mechanisms? What is the level of user engagement over time and across demographics and severity spectrum?
  • Innovation: Does the company have a clear product road map and is it aligned to your needs? Is it simply a point solution, or one that might grow with long-term requirements and the rapidly evolving modals and best practices of healthcare?
  • Data: Does the solution enable you to collect and analyze organizational data to better understand your employees’ needs and how benefits limitations may be impacting your bottom line?
  • Commercial and clinical strength: What is the company’s track record? How long has the solution been used and by how many customers? What additional industry partnerships does the company have? What industry organizations does the company engage with?
  • Security/Risk/Privacy: Are there clear data security and privacy policies? Is the solution HIPAA compliant? What security measures are in place for the data collected? Is there a clear user safety and risk protocol, including management, flagging, escalation, and resolution procedures? Is the solution ISO27001 certified? Is there an information governance toolkit? Does the solution have FDA certification? Is there a set of clear design, quality, manufacturing, product management and maintenance best practices?

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I have always loved the Richard Branson autobiography, Losing My Virginity, and his other book, Screw It, Let’s Do It — an amazing look into trials and tribulations of an entrepreneur who dared and succeeded.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?

Mindfulness is a concept that has gained increasing attention in popular culture over the past several years, and even more so as a result of the current pandemic, yet many people aren’t aware of its origins, the full meaning of mindfulness or its benefits beyond what they may have heard in the media or popular culture. From a historical perspective, ‘mindfulness’ is derived from ancient Buddhist, Hindu, and Chinese philosophies, and is meditative in nature, emphasizing non-reactive awareness and concentration of one’s self and experiences. In this sense, it serves as a way to relate to all experiences — positive, negative and neutral — such that overall levels of suffering are reduced and sense of well-being increased. Today, there are countless definitions and interpretations of mindfulness, which often dilute the true meaning and intention of its ancient eastern roots.This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?

In the 1970s, experts in clinical psychology and psychiatry began developing a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness in order to help people cope with a variety of psychological conditions, from stress and depression to anxiety and substance abuse. Today, there are numerous reputable studies documenting both the mental and physical benefits of practicing mindfulness including: stress and anxiety reductionboosts to working memoryincreased focusless emotional reactivityincreased cognitive flexibilityincreased immune functioningand other evidence-based benefits.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

This is a critical focus for us at the moment, and we’ve developed a COVID-specific program on our platform to help users manage their mental wellbeing amid the heightened sense of uncertainty, anxiety and fear brought on by the pandemic. Below are some tips based on this new program:

1. Limit your news intake and focus on trusted sources

Like with any crisis that dominates the news cycle, the sheer amount of coverage can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to lose yourself in a sea of online and social media updates on the coronavirus. Try and limit your time reading, watching and listening to news updates to once or twice per day. Avoid reading sensational media that can provide unreliable information that can increase levels of fear and anxiety. Stick to communications from reputable organizations such as the CDC in the USGovernment of Canada as well as the World Health Organization (WHO).

2. Seek out your peers and support network

Social isolation is one of the biggest mental health challenges we are facing with this crisis. Many people are living alone or away from their support systems, which are usually essential well-being boosters in a time of crisis. We are tactile, social creatures by nature, so a lack of physical contact can be extremely difficult for us to cope with.

Maintaining social connections is crucial to your well-being at this time. Use all the tools available to you — phone or video calls, emails, letter writing, and social media, to stay in regular contact with your friends, family and communities. Remember that this period of isolation will end, so use this time to strengthen your connections, rather than letting them fade.

3. Define your thoughts and worries

Stress and anxiety are often accompanied by an overactive mind, full of circling thoughts and worries. Writing your thoughts down in a journal is a simple, yet highly effective method for calming a frantic mind. A good place to keep this journal is beside your bed, as it’s often when we are trying to sleep that buzzing thoughts are the most troublesome.

Problem solving can also help you to manage your thoughts and worries. It allows you to define exactly what you are worrying about, and then find the best solution.

Steps to effective problem solving:

-Define the problem

-Think of as many solutions as possible, no matter how silly they may seem

-Consider the pros and cons of each solution

-Choose a solution to try

-Plan how you are going to implement the chosen solution

-Carry out the solution

-Review how it went. Were there any problems? What did you learn?

-Repeat the process if your chosen solution does not solve the problem

4. Acknowledge the things you can control

Despite the many unknowns around the coronavirus there are things that you can control, such as following recommended precautions around hygiene and social interaction. In this challenging time where a lot of us are adapting to a ‘new normal’ for at least the next while, another aspect you can control is maintaining a routine. For example, if you are used to getting up at a certain time to commute but are now working from home, try to get up at the same time as you usually would and fill that space with some activity, whether you do some exercise, meditation, or go for a walk with your kids or whatever helps ease you into the working day. Sticking to your usual routine as much as possible and controlling what you can should help you feel more in control and less anxious.

5. Self-care and taking time out

Looking after yourself is an essential part of maintaining your energy levels and your resilience to stress. Airlines advise you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping other people. The same idea goes for self-care — you need to look after yourself first, in order to be there for other people.

Self-care suggestions:

-Eat a healthy diet — watch out for overeating and over drinking, which are common coping mechanisms in times of stress

-Get as much fresh air and daylight as possible. Get outside if you can, but even if it’s through a window, this will give you energy and help you sleep better

-Make sure you are getting enough good quality sleep — take time to wind down before bed

-Exercise regularly — moving your body is a great antidote to stress

-Spend time doing things you enjoy — it’s important to give yourself a break and do things that boost your mood

  • From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Offering effective support to our peers and loved ones can help our own mental wellbeing during especially difficult times like these. Here are a few tips you can offer to those around you:

  1. Write down your thoughts and feelings

Stress and anxiety are often accompanied by an overactive mind, full of circling thoughts and worries. Writing your thoughts down in a journal is a simple, yet highly effective method for calming a frantic mind. A good place to keep this journal is beside your bed, as it’s often when we are trying to sleep that buzzing thoughts are the most troublesome.

  1. Use the Worry Time technique

Telling yourself to stop worrying about something usually has the opposite effect, making you think about it more. A more useful way to manage worry is to set aside a ten minute ‘worry time’ once or twice a day, where your only task is to worry. As your worries and concerns arise during the day, quickly write them down and set them aside for your worry time.

  1. Maintain Social Connections and Offer Support

A powerful tool that you can make use of at this time is your ability to provide support and reassurance to others. Reaching out could involve sending a card or flowers, doing someone’s shopping or calling for a quick catch-up. This is particularly important for people living alone. Think of the people you know who are alone, what small gesture could you make to let them know you’re thinking of them?

  1. Try something new

These strange times provide an opportunity for us to break out of our normal routines and try new things. You could start a new project, try a new recipe, learn a new skill or try a new form of exercise.

  1. Divide the day

If you are working from home, it is important to create a clear distinction between work and downtime. Exercise is a great way to do this, as it gets you moving and releases tension. If you aren’t working, it is still a good idea to create blocks of time for different activities and allow yourself to wind down in the evenings.

  • What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

A simple journal is an amazing way to take a load of weight off our minds in the evening by capturing the day’s events. This can help us to sleep better and feel more refreshed the next day. Journaling is a way of committing events and thoughts to paper which can help with things like anxiety, as you take your thoughts from constantly floating and being reexamined, into a more committed state. This does not have to be fancy; a nice notebook and pen beside your bed that you write into each night. Then take the journal each weekend, perhaps a Saturday morning, and reflect on the entries — the opportunities for growth and learning, and what we are grateful for.

  • Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

‘This too shall pass’ — for me this is the great leveler of life. Both good times and bad times will pass through the application of time and perhaps patience. While not designed to belittle a challenge, it is one that I interpret to provide hope when needed but also to provide grounding when we get too far off or elated.

  • You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

RPR — Realistic Positive Reframing — while mindfulness can provide us the ability to stop and center ourselves, I feel that looking at our state of mind or how we frame the world provides us all such an amazing opportunity — it is how we look at the world, at our community, our challenges and our opportunity. All of these are external to us but the control we can exude over them can be immense. This realistically positive reframe can provide benefits like ‘paying it forward’ can by surrounding us and those around us in positivity, opening us to new opportunities, friendships and supports for our community. Realistic Positive Reframing — practice it every morning and pass it on.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

Readers can follow me on LinkedIn, and follow SilverCloud on Twitter at @SilverCloudHLinkedIn, and visit our website www.silvercloudhealth.com.

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