This week I have three articles I want to share with you. The first article states that many employers are not prepared to help their employees with mental health conditions. The second article is about how negative thoughts can impact our bodies and increase pain. The third is a study that examines how people use language to describe their chronic pain. Below you’ll find these articles and my thoughts on their implications.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.
Supporting mental health is just as important as physical health, however new research finds that many employers say they struggle with supporting employees with mental health and substance abuse issues. Employers also say they face issues with employees hiding their conditions, lack of knowledge in how to recognize mental health conditions and prejudice against people with such conditions. With mental health conditions going unaddressed, employees can be less productive which also impacts the company as a whole.
If you’re an employer, are you in the 29% (“feel very confident in accommodating employees’ mental health conditions”) group, the 28% (“very confident in accommodating employees with drug addictions”) group, or the rest that do not feel equipped to “support employees with mental health and substance abuse issues”? Not feeling equipped, or not doing something about it, doesn’t mean that it’s not an issue in your workplace with your employees. It exists, and the less you pay attention to it the more you will pay for it (in so many ways). If this entire conversation makes you uncomfortable as a work comp claims adjuster, risk manager, H/R manager, CEO or CFO or co-worker then you’re probably not in either the 29% or 28% category. And that’s a bad thing for both your colleagues as well your bottom line.
It’s hard to always stay positive, especially when you are living with chronic pain. But did you know that just thinking a negative thought can have a huge impact on one’s body? When we think a negative thought, we release stress hormones that can have all kinds of negative effects such as increased muscle tension that in turn makes pain worse. This may seem like an endless cycle, but one way to fight the negativity and pain is through reframing negative thoughts and experiences into stronger positive ones. This will make the brain happy and contribute to a better approach to managing pain.
Wonderfully said by my friends Becky Curtis and Yvonne Guibert. Negativity is easy in difficult circumstances. Positivity is hard in difficult circumstances. Until you re-frame your paradigm and change the habits of how you think, and then positivity becomes easier (it’s never easy). Can just changing how you think impact your health? Science proves it true. As do individuals that have implemented it. Like Becky. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was sometimes criticized for his 1952 self-help book “The Power of Positive Thinking” because it relied largely on personal anecdotes instead of science. Well, guess what? Science has come around to confirm his method about “how to achieve a permanent and optimistic attitude through unending positive conscious thought, usually through affirmations or visualizations.”
Pain is felt by everyone at some point in their life. However, pain is a subjective experience and can be felt differently by different people. The only way we can describe individual pain is through our words. This study examined how people with chronic pain use language to describe their pain. The one common factor is that people relied on metaphorical language.
This is an excellent reiteration that #WordsMatter—for the patient and provider—when it comes to Chronic Pain. Especially when there are “catastrophic thinking patterns.” The recommendation of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy) fits what I’ve heard from all of the smart behavioral psychologists I’ve interacted with over the past several years. Hat tip to Jason Parker for this reminder that helping people live with their pain can be strongly influenced by the words, tone of voice and non-verbal communication to themselves and from their clinicians, family and friends (and, in the case of work comp, their employer). This is one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Mel Pohl—”When I ask patients about their pain, eight out of ten words they use to describe their experience are emotional. The three most frequently used terms are anxiety, fear, and anger, but there’s also depression, helplessness, loss of purpose, frustration, guilt, and shame.” In order to properly treat pain, we (yes, I mean all of us) have to listen to how it’s described by the patient. And be careful of how we (yes, I mean all of us) frame the conversation with the patient. We (yes, I mean all of us) can inadvertently make matters worse by what we say or how we say it.
To read everything on my mind this past week, please visit me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marks-musings-june-24-mark-rxprofessor-pew/.
Until Next Week,