The Path Back to Health Comes in Many Forms

This week I want to highlight three different articles about a range of topics. The first article is about a new program in Tennessee to help injured workers get back to the job. The second article is about consumer products designed to help with anxiety. And the third article is a reflective piece about how failure can have its upsides. 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.

New TN BWC Program Helps Injured Workers Take Next Step After Disability Benefits End 

The Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has recently launched a new program called Next Step. This program was created to help injured workers return to work after they have exhausted their disability benefits. It can help individuals start a career in a new industry, allow them to work in a job they’ve always wanted and even learn new skills—all while helping them provide for their families.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Tennessee’s new “Next Step” program announced by Abbie Hudgens makes total sense. It’s another way to #CleanUpTheMess by providing job opportunities to those that can’t do what they used to because of a workplace injury. And not just a job—”This program will give them a wonderful opportunity to earn a living at a job they’ve maybe always wanted to do or discover skills they never knew they had.” It reminds me of other organizations that connect injured workers to non-profit organizations that need the help (here’s a 2006 article about it but I’ve heard other stories since). Bottom line—Return-to-work is an important component of returning to life. The inability to work (either because of diminished capacity or lack of opportunity) is considered a co-morbidity so anything that provides opportunity is actually creating quality of life. Kudos to the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for launching this service! Are there any other state Workers Comp systems that have something similar? I know at least Washington state does with their Return-to-Work Partnerships Program. Are there any employers doing this? How about vendor providers? I know that Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson of Craig’s Table is doing it in Australia. It sure seems like a no-brainer to me.

Fidget spinners, weighted blankets, and the rise of anxiety consumerism 

Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States today, affecting nearly one third of people over their lifetime. And with the ever-growing population being diagnosed with anxiety, there has been an increase in products designed to help calm us. Three products used widely across America are fidget spinners, fidget cubes and weighted blankets. Although these products may help with the symptoms of anxiety, there is no evidence they help solve the underlying cause.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Pardon the embedded profanity and politics, but I thought this was an interesting concept—the “anxiety economy.” An entire category of services and products that are built to address the high anxiety that comes with the 21st century in America. I say address—they’re often not science-based (though based on scientific principles), therapeutic by side-effect (not curative), and are more about distractions (than dealing with the root cause). With anxiety (the most common mental illness in the US) effecting 18.1 percent of Americans every year and nearly one-third over the lifetime, it’s real. And there are evidence-based therapies to help people manage it. But often they are not accessible (clinicians, cost) so the promises made by the “anxiety economy” are tantalizing. This was an interesting quote at the end – “our immediate impulse is to buy stuff that promises to deal with it (anxiety) so that we don’t have to.” Food for thought…

An excellent comment from one of my psychologist BFF’s, Geralyn Datz PhD: “It is true that there are several brief treatments for anxiety. Focused anxiety can be addressed in as a few as 6 sessions. Phobias can be addressed briefly as well. Social anxiety benefits from 6 to 8 sessions. Even complex anxiety, like worry, trauma, or generalized anxiety can be treated in 12 sessions, of evidence-based psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy. This is less than 12 hours of time. I don’t think the obstacles to clinicians, and the cost, is as great as it is often publicized to be. We have many patients that participate in person and telehealth treatment that are covered by insurance and have a minimal copay. I think the larger challenge in US is that it is doesn’t feel natural for people to seek help. Also, working on problems is difficult and requires us to face ourselves, make time, and face fears. This requires commitment to change. Additionally, many people know that anxiety is treatable. They don’t know how to go about treating it, and medication and distraction appear the most obvious solutions. Mental health does not have an ad campaign because it is not under patent. We would do better to educate the public about the mental health services that are available and support them.” (it’s my underlines because it’s so true, proven by Geralyn’s observations while helping manifold people “work on problems”)

Another comment from J. Stephen Monahan was equally as insightful: “Thanks for sharing. We still must address a culture that teaches we should be “pain free”. We must focus on functioning notwithstanding pain, because learning to continue functioning, adapting, decreases the debilitating nature of pain.” (since he runs Work Comp in Vermont that speaks well to how their system is trying to approach “pain”)

The Upside of Failure 

There are endless amounts of information about success and how we achieve it. As humans, we are obsessed with success. What is often overlooked is just how much an impact failure can have on us. And while failure is usually seen as negative, there are some upsides. Failure is part of the success story. It makes you stronger, humbler and can allow you to view things in a different light. This article is all about how failure is human and a part of life, and most importantly, it’s temporary.

Mark’s Thoughts:
With 128,595 “likes” the author has obviously succeeded. Even though he doesn’t mention it, I’m sure he’s failed at some point. I certainly have. In fact, my failures probably exceed my successes. But I’ve never let failures define me but rather to propel me. Have I wallowed in despair? Yes. Did I stay in the pit of misery? No. I especially liked his final three paragraphs:

  • “I once read that Failure leads to Success. Not necessarily. Failure can also lead to Failure. It’s your choice really whether you want to stay down or stand up.
  • Failure is transforming. Failure is humbling. Failure is liberating. Failure is enlightening. Failure is the antidote to complacency. Failure is part of the process of Success. Failure is a stepping stone. Failure is required- you need to suffer the agony of defeat to appreciate the thrill of success. Failure is preparation for the hard knocks of life. Failure is delay, not defeat. Failure is possibility. Failure is human.
  • And most importantly, Failure is temporary.”

This reaffirms how much more important failure is than success in making your life count. It’s not how many times you get knocked down. It’s how many times you get back up. If it’s not a 1:1 ratio, you’re not making progress.

To read everything on my mind this past week, please visit me on LinkedIn at

Until next week,