Workplace MVP: Choosing Resources to Support Employee Behavioral Health, with Dr. Thomas Young, nView, Robyn Hussa Farrell, Sharpen, and Dr. George Vergolias, R3 Continuum
With all the newly developed approaches, resources, and tools that employers can access to support employee behavioral health, how does one decide on which to use? It’s a high stakes question which many employers are struggling to solve. Host Jamie Gassmann explores answers with three outstanding professionals: Dr. Thomas Young of nView, Robyn Hussa Farrell with Sharpen Minds, and Dr. George Vergolias, R3 Continuum. Workplace MVP is underwritten and presented by R3 Continuum and produced by the Minneapolis-St.Paul Studio of Business RadioX®.
nView is a team of doctors, scientists, authors, technologists, parents, families, survivors – passionately focused on mental illness and how it’s perceived, assessed, diagnosed, and treated. They are activists, advocates, business leaders, and disruptors who are determined to alter a status quo that is failing by any statistical measure.
They are realists who know change is difficult, and also dreamers who understand change is necessary. They categorically refuse to go quietly into that good night, and they are hopeful for meaningful dialogue and change. They are committed to doing better, being better, driving big changes in the perceptions of and treatments for mental health.
Cited in thousands of FDA-approved studies and clinical trials, nView empowers healthcare professionals, educators and researchers with software solutions that allow them to more accurately and efficiently identify, diagnose, and monitor these individuals who need behavioral health assistance.
They uniquely do this through evidence-based solutions that have been referenced or validated in more than 17,000 studies and used by physicians all over the globe for the past 25+ years.
Thomas R. Young, MD is a board certified family physician with more than 35 years of medical experience. He is recognized as an innovator and thought leader in the fields of Consumer Directed Health Care and Population Healthcare Management.
Dr. Thomas Young, Chief Medical Officer & Founder, nView
Dr. Young served for six years as the Medical Director of Idaho Medicaid and has remained active in the formation of medical and mental health policy for the state of Idaho. Dr. Young was also Chief Clinical / Medical Officer of Idaho Medicare QIO Qualis Health.
Previously, Dr. Young served as Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Connextions Health, a Florida-based healthcare technology company that was acquired by Optum Health, a division of United HealthGroup.
Dr. Young also served as President of Behavioral Imaging Solutions, a technology firm recognized for its application of video imaging for the treatment of children with autism. Most recently, he served as Chief Operating Officer at US Preventive Medicine, a health technology leader in Population Health Management.
He is also a successful entrepreneur. His businesses ventures include Diversified Franchises, LLC which owns a chain of specialty restaurants, a home health business, and Elite Sports Society, a successful sports marketing business where he serves as the business development officer.
Robyn Hussa Farrell, MFA, E-RYT, Founder and CEO, Sharpen
Robyn Hussa Farrell, MFA, E-RYT, Founder and Chief Executive Officer for Sharpen, extends knowledge in building large-scale initiatives to listen closely to the stakeholders, individuals with lived experience and clinicians to ensure all voices have been incorporated into prevention of mental illness and substance use disorders. For nearly two decades, Robyn has been building collaborative relationships between state agencies, educational systems, public health, and researchers across the U.S. to increase connectedness and primary prevention for communities.
Hussa’s tiered model for teaching mental health, population health, and prevention in schools has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals. She has built mindfulness-based stress reduction initiatives that incorporate trauma-informed Resilient Schools frameworks in the state of South Carolina. Robyn served as an advisory committee member for Way to Wellville/Rethink Health Community Engagement and Listening Campaign and served as SC Youth Suicide Prevention Spartanburg County coordinator through the SC Department of Mental Health Office of Suicide Prevention. She founded four companies, first an award-winning NYC theatre company, Transport Group, which earned the prestigious Drama Desk award its first 7 years of operation and celebrates its 20th anniversary. Robyn and her husband Tim met as award-winning artists in NYC almost 30 years ago and have directed over 3,000 films, live events and educational programs through Sharpen and their production company, White Elephant Enterprises.
Healthy communities are made up of healthy individuals. Sharpen provides a cost-effective and flexible platform that: Provides easy access to research-based, standards-aligned, and award-winning content for mental wellness, enhances, extends, and expands the reach of therapists or counselors. connects and coordinates local and regional community resources, provides data to improve resource utilization, and builds individual, family, and community capacity, competence, and confidence to navigate successfully in these uncertain times and in the future.
– 15 years research
– Suicide prevention focus
– Self-guided CBT available 24 hours a day
– Highly customizable
– 200+ experts in 450 modules
Company website| LinkedIn |Facebook | Twitter
Dr. George Vergolias, Vice President and Medical Director, R3 Continuum
George Vergolias, PsyD, LP is a forensic psychologist and threat management expert serving as Vice President and Medical Director for the R3 Continuum. As part of his role of Vice President and Medical Director of R3 Continuum, he leads their Threat of violence and workplace violence programs. Dr. Vergolias is also the founder and President of TelePsych Supports, a tele-mental health company providing involuntary commitment and crisis risk evaluations for hospitals and emergency departments. He has over 20 years of forensic experience with expertise in the following areas: violence risk and threat management, psychological dynamics of stalking, sexual offending, emotional trauma, civil and involuntary commitment, suicide and self-harm, occupational disability, law enforcement consultation, expert witness testimony, and tele-mental health. Dr. Vergolias has directly assessed or managed over one thousand cases related to elevated risk for violence or self-harm, sexual assault, stalking, and communicated threats. He has consulted with regional, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Secret Service, and Bureau of Prisons. He has worked for and consulted with Fortune 500 companies, major insurance carriers, government agencies, and large healthcare systems on issues related to work absence management, workplace violence, medical necessity reviews, and expert witness consultation.
R3 Continuum is a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. R3c helps ensure the psychological and physical safety of organizations and their people in today’s ever-changing and often unpredictable world. Through their continuum of tailored solutions, including evaluations, crisis response, executive optimization, protective services, and more, they help organizations maintain and cultivate a workplace of wellbeing so that their people can thrive. Learn more about R3c at www.r3c.com.
Company website | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter
About Workplace MVP
Every day, around the world, organizations of all sizes face disruptive events and situations. Within those workplaces are everyday heroes in human resources, risk management, security, business continuity, and the C-suite. They don’t call themselves heroes though. On the contrary, they simply show up every day, laboring for the well-being of employees in their care, readying the workplace for and planning responses to disruption. This show, Workplace MVP, confers on these heroes the designation they deserve, Workplace MVP (Most Valuable Professionals), and gives them the forum to tell their story. As you hear their experiences, you will learn first-hand, real life approaches to readying the workplace, responses to crisis situations, and overcoming challenges of disruption. Visit our show archive here.
Workplace MVP Host Jamie Gassmann
In addition to serving as the host to the Workplace MVP podcast, Jamie Gassmann is the Director of Marketing at R3 Continuum (R3c). Collectively, she has more than fourteen years of marketing experience. Across her tenure, she has experience working in and with various industries including banking, real estate, retail, crisis management, insurance, business continuity, and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications with special interest in Advertising and Public Relations and a Master of Business Administration from Paseka School of Business, Minnesota State University.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting from the Business RadioX Studios, it’s time for Workplace MVP. Workplace MVP is brought to you by R3 Continuum, a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. Now, here’s your host, Jamie Gassmann.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:24] Hi, everyone. Your host, Jamie Gassmann here, and welcome to this episode of Workplace MVP. Employee behavioral health has been a growing focus for employers over the years. And looking at the last year-and-a-half with the global pandemic, this focus has become even clearer and the need to take action even more prominent. For years, employers have leaned on the support and resources made available through more traditional methods. Now, along with the increasing focus, comes a new set of approaches, resources, and tools that employers can leverage in expanding the support they offer to their employees.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:00] Knowing which to choose in offering additional support to employees can be overwhelming. Do I go with the new app? Do I go with the new service, resource? And the list goes on. How can one choose the most effective approach in offering support services for their employees?
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:17] Well, today, to help shed some light on how employers can approach making a decision on choosing the most appropriate support tools and resources for their employee’s behavioral health are three amazing MVPs: Dr. Tom Young, Chief Medical Officer and Founder of nView; Robyn Hussa Farrell, CEO and Cofounder of SharpenMinds; and Dr. George Vergolias, Medical Director for R3 Continuum. Welcome, everyone, to the show. So, our first workplace MVP is Dr. Tom Young, Chief Medical Officer and Founder of nView. Welcome, Dr. Tom Young.
Tom Young: [00:01:55] Good morning. Glad to be here.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:58] So, let’s start off with you telling us a little bit about yourself and your company, nView.
Tom Young: [00:02:04] Sure. Thank you, Jamie. My background is in family medicine. I started out in family medicine many years ago. And have evolved my practice life over the years to behavioral health. The last 20 years, I’ve been in the behavioral health space seeing the need for improved tools and improved methodologies, particularly for primary care doctors. I practiced everywhere, from small rural towns where I was the only doctor for a thousand square miles, to city-based areas, and seeing the need.
Tom Young: [00:02:43] And so, that’s kind of how nView began to evolve, back in early 2016, running across some tools that were out there, but finding a better way to get those in the marketplace, to get those to primary care doctors. But, basically, to help and begin to help in the battle, if you will, that we have in this country and have had for years around mental health issues.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:03:12] So, your company, nView, has won several awards. Talk to me about how you’ve won those awards. What were some of them focused on?
Tom Young: [00:03:21] Yes, we have, and we’ve been very proud of that. We started out our sort of journey, if you will, in the mental health space, in the pure research space. Our tools have been used around the world over the past 25 plus years, particularly in pharmaceutical research trials, large clinical trials, multinational clinical trials. Our tools have become available in about 160 languages. So, from that pure research base, I started looking for more digitally acceptable ways to bring them into the common space, if you will, of health care. So, some of the awards have been just sort of about creativity and changing something that’s very staid and tried and true in the research space, and making it a little bit more usable in the digital health space for providers. Trying to take some of those things and then gradually move them into partnerships with other groups to be able to make them more patient friendly, if you will, more engaging.
Tom Young: [00:04:27] I think one of the keys for us in getting there is really finding a space in the world of behavioral health as it’s evolved to being the key to doing, what I call, opening the door. We’ve become the way you put your hand on the doorknob if you’re a patient, the way to open up something to begin to get some information, whether that’s information about children in your family. So, that’s some of the things that we’ve evolved to and that’s where some of the awards have come from is kind of fun ways to start to look at new ways to do things.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:05:05] And part of that is some of the screening and the assessment tools, you’ve mentioned them already, that your organization offers. Can you share with us a little bit information around what those assessment tools are that you have available and how are they different than other tools that might be out there?
Tom Young: [00:05:23] That’s a great question. Really, I think one of the things about our tools is the ease of use of most of them and the fact that they differ significantly. The big difference is, most screening tools that people are used to, both providers and patients, are tools that really screen for a specific set of symptoms. I’ll give you a tool that helps screen for depression. I’ll give you another tool that helps you screen if you’ve got anxiety. So, the trick is, if you’re the patient, all you have to know is what’s wrong with you and then you can pick the right screening tool, which is sort of a perverse way of getting in the system, if you will.
Tom Young: [00:06:02] So, our tools focus on generally helping people discover what type of disorder they might be involved with. If it’s your child, it’s the ability for a parent to understand is their son or daughter depressed or are they anxious. Are they showing tendencies towards bipolar disease? Do they have ADHD? Some of the things that concern parents. Rather than saying, “Okay. Yes. You have some of the symptoms of depression. Thank you.” So, our tools are based in that world, if you will, of being more specific. Providing the average physician, pediatrician, nurse practitioner, the ability to understand, not just that the patient has symptoms of depression, but that they may well have major depressive disorder or they may well be bipolar, and thereby speeding the process for getting the right diagnosis to people.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:06:59] Great. And so, talking about it from the hospital sense and maybe a practitioner using these tools, how would an employer be able to leverage these assessment tools in helping the overall wellbeing of their organization or their employees?
Tom Young: [00:07:13] Well, I think that’s where the employer uses my term called opening the door. If I’m an employer, what I want to offer my employees is the ability to get information, to get highly validated, quality information, to be able to make their own decisions. If I’m a parent – again, as a good example and I’m concerned about my child – and my employer has offered me some tools that I can go to, I can begin to understand where I need to go. And by offering a simple assessment tool, the employer is saying to the employee in one way, “I care about your mental health. Let’s talk about your mental health. Let’s get this on the table.” We, together, the employer and employee, understand that there are problems.
Tom Young: [00:08:05] So, it’s that door opening kind of technology, if you will. It doesn’t have to make all the diagnoses and do all the treatment. It has to get you started on that mental health journey, if you will, or behavioral health improvement journey. So, that’s, I think, what employers can do.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:08:23] It almost empowers their employee to be a little bit more kind of informed about what they might be feeling. Would that be a correct kind of assessment?
Tom Young: [00:08:33] Absolutely. I think that’s the key element, is, giving them opportunity to become more informed. And one of the terms I use, particularly with families, is that, often, a family will choose a child to be sort of the point person in the family. And so, one of the things I used when I was working actively in the pediatric space was telling parents that, “Well, children are very often explorers into the wonderful world of psychotherapy for their families.”
Tom Young: [00:09:05] So, very often, the first person through the door that brings the family with them is a child. So, employers then are empowering a family. And so, from the employer base, if I can make the family stronger, I have a stronger employee, I have a more valuable employee, I have a more focused employee. So, providing tools not just to the employee themselves, but to the family, I think, are really key items.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:09:35] And looking at society and you’ve mentioned this a couple of times already in some of your responses, there’s a lot of focus on depression and anxiety. But why is it important to screen employees for mental health disorders beyond depression and anxiety?
Tom Young: [00:09:49] Well, there are many other disorders which mimic anxiety and which mimic depression. But a perfect example if somebody is obsessed with a simple tool and says, “Well, you have depression, so let’s treat you for depression.” That’s fine if that’s what you have. But if what you have is bipolar disease, or what you have is PTSD with depressive symptomatology, or if you have some psychotic features to your depression, simple treatment is going to sometimes make it worse. So, the real key is getting a more specific diagnostic nomenclature to the discussion.
Tom Young: [00:10:27] So, if somebody, for example, an adolescent, may appear quite depressed, but the underlying disorder may be an eating disorder. A child or an adult may look anxious, but the underlying disorder may be a specific phobia. An adult may look anxious, but may have underlying OCD, which a certain portion of the population has. So, getting the correct diagnostic understanding at the beginning shortens the process and improves the outcome for the individual patient, as well as for the employer who gets back to their employee in a much more rapid fashion, if you will.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:11:14] Great. And I know we have more questions to kind of focus around this, but for right now, if somebody wanted to connect with you, how would they go about doing that?
Tom Young: [00:11:23] Well, nView has a website, nview.com, N-V-I-E-W.com, you can reach me that way. Through there, we have a phone number, you can call me. When the phone rings, I answer. I’m happy to talk to people. So, either by email or off the website is the phone number, and certainly happy to touch base with people at any point in time.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:11:48] Great. And so, we’ll be bringing you back in for the group conversation later. For right now, I want to move to our next Workplace MVP, who’s returning to our show for a second time, Robyn Hussa Farrell, CEO and Cofounder of SharpenMinds. Welcome back to the show, Robyn.
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:12:06] Thank you so much, Jamie. It’s great to be here.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:09] So, give our audience a quick refresher on your career journey and kind of some background around how you moved through your career and what led to creating SharpenMinds.
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:12:20] Yeah. My career began really bringing a live health education program into schools. So, I was really looking at disordered eating prevention and the comorbidities thereof. And the avenue into reaching a lot of individuals and families was through a high quality arts intervention. So, I looped all the clinicians and the researchers to that program and connected over 4,000 kids appropriately to care. During that process, we surveyed over 80,000 participants over the course of four years. And we kind of came up with 160 most commonly asked questions. So, that also led us to kind of developing the 50 risk factors that we’re seeing in schools.
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:13:10] And so, it was through that, a lot of learning, a lot of listening campaigns, that my husband and I picked up a camera and we started seeking out the answers to those questions. Really finding the top scientists around the country. And to date, we have captured over 3,000 videos and over 500 evidence based psycho educational modules that we deploy through Sharpen, which is our turnkey service.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:13:40] Great. And when you were on our show earlier this year, we discussed how things, like stress and anxiety, have been increasingly affecting employees mental health. So, since then, have you seen any major changes in overall employee mental health?
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:13:53] Oh, yeah, for sure. So, in fact, we have been doing a lot of listening with CHRO executives and what we know, they’ve said many different things to us that they’re seeing this year. But in particular, one quote that kind of stands out in my mind they’ve said, “If you’re just sending employees to a 1-800 number, that’s like Russian Roulette.” So, they’ve been requesting a lot of nonclinical on demand services. They’ve been telling us that employees need to be able to talk to someone immediately, and in a safe and identified environment. They’re desperate to learn how to normalize the conversation around mental health and decrease that stigma, like Dr. Young was just talking about. So, I think there’s a lot of worry in some that’s happening at the employee level and at the employer level. And we’re excited, actually, that we have all this research and data to be able to support them.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:14:53] And from your perspective, you know, I know you’ve kind of mentioned that they’re starting to look for more options to support those employees, but have you seen changes in how employers are responding to the growing need for behavioral health support?
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:15:12] Yeah, Jamie. So, I think what they’re finding, there’s a couple of things going on, and Dr. Young addressed it earlier. Number one, that traditional EAP model, they’re noticing that really isn’t working. It’s not enough. We know we need a comprehensive solution. They need more supplemental customizable services that sort of help with that destigmatization piece and normalizing the conversation around mental health.
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:15:39] I think, also, from what I’ve heard in the listening campaigns that CHROs really feel like they’re starting at the ground level having to figure out the mental health space. And so, what I always say is, there are so many experts who’ve been navigating this space for decades and established those best practices, like Dr. Vergolias and Dr. Young and the companies that they have founded, that it’s really essential that, I think, those employers and employer groups really start connecting with those best practice frameworks.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:16:15] And so, there’s many different ways to support the behavioral health of employees, from traditional methods to more nontraditional or even alternative approaches. In your opinion, how would you say they compare for an employer looking at all of these different approaches? What are the comparatives?
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:16:34] Yeah. So, what we know is the EAP service, I don’t think it was really designed as an ongoing feature. It was really kind of a supplement to the traditional health insurance model. So, I don’t think it was intended to have utilization on this large of a scale, which, of course, we’ve seen increase with COVID. Fewer than five percent of employees actually engage with their EAP service. What we learned through our listening campaigns is, often, employees don’t even know it exists or they don’t know what it is so why would I ever call it. So, I think that H.R. executives are finding that they are having to be that mental health navigator in the moment, either of a crisis or, like Dr. Young was talking about, when a family member is in crisis. And so, we just need to enhance the system pretty much all together.
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:17:25] And so, from my perspective, what is needed is ongoing mental health literacy training, the social emotional skills development, and the ongoing sort of resiliency builders, they meet every employee, every employer, but also every family member where they are. And it kind of helps normalize that conversation around mental health.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:17:47] So, can an employer have one versus the other? Or is there true power in more of a comprehensive, multifaceted offering to employees?
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:17:59] Yeah. I’m biased, obviously, because I offer a comprehensive solution with partners like nView and R3C. And so, why I say that is specifically because there are experts, specialists, and researchers who’ve been finding these outcomes over the course of four decades. What we want to do is plug in to those experts and make it a seamless one stop sort of experience. And so, that is what’s required right now. It’s fabulous to have a mindfulness app. It’s fabulous to just take a screening. It’s fabulous to have evidence-based crisis intervention or postvention. What you want is the whole wheel of support so that at any step along the way, you can identify someone who’s struggling, get them connected to care, help them in between visits, and keep that wheel going.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:18:56] Like, a full continuum of supports. Wonderful. If someone wanted to connect with you, how can they go about doing that?
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:19:04] Yeah. We’re sharpenminds.com. You can learn more all about our services and reach out to us directly there.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:19:10] Great. And so, moving to our next Workplace MVP, it’s another returning MVP to our show, is our guest, Dr. George Vergolias, Medical Director for our show sponsor, R3 Continuum. Good to have you back to the show, George.
George Vergolias: [00:19:26] Great to be here, Jamie. My pleasure.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:19:28] So, let’s start off with you giving our listeners a refresher on your career journey.
George Vergolias: [00:19:34] Certainly. So, I actually began in engineering in college, believe it or not. And then, went into philosophy and then realized I wouldn’t have a job other than working as a teacher. That led me into psychology. And then, I kind of pursued the ranks of clinical psychology and just kind of fell into a postdoc in forensic psychology. I won’t bore you with all the details there, but really just fell in love with it and fell in love with it after my doctoral degree. That’s when I kind of found my love for forensic work is after I got a concentration in neuropsychology. So, there’s hope for people that are in their doctoral programs and still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. So, that’s good news for folks out there.
George Vergolias: [00:20:16] Early career, I did a lot of court based testimony, diminished capacity, not guilty, by reason of insanity. I did a lot of threat assessments for child and family services, the Department of Corrections, and so on. And that kind of led into kind of a general expertise in violence and violence risk assessment. And then, along the way, this was around just a year or two after Columbine, so I’m dating myself here. And what happened around that time is, if you were in forensic psychology and ever dealt with violence risk at all, you suddenly were the expert on school violence because there really wasn’t an expertise back then. And you just had to learn it quickly and dive in because there wasn’t anyone to fill that gap.
George Vergolias: [00:21:00] I happened to be working at a juvenile detention center and we did see a lot of would be school threateners and a lot of would be school shooters come through the system over a number of years. And so, I developed a proficiency and a specialty in that. And then, naturally, what happened a few years later is, local corporations – I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. We have a big kind of East Coast technology hub at Research Triangle Park – began to reach out to me and say, “Hey, we’ve got a guy or a woman -” usually, overwhelmingly men, but occasionally a woman “- who’s making a threat. And we don’t know what to do. And someone said to call you.”
George Vergolias: [00:21:36] And that kind of led me into the corporate space of understanding workplace violence and the impact of workplace culture and management and other variables that contribute to both effective workplace violence as well as, what we tend to hear about more often, predatory or targeted workplace violence. And I’ve been in that space now for 17 plus years.
George Vergolias: [00:22:00] In addition to that, I’ve continued to maintain a private practice going on 19 years now, where I have a group of doctors that work exclusively in emergency departments. And we do crisis evaluations and involuntary commitment evaluations that we deal with people at their most vulnerable coming into the emergency departments. And we try to figure out, do they need to be in the hospital? Can they be safely diverted home or to community resources?
George Vergolias: [00:22:26] So, those kind of bookended kind of my career in a way that provided me a really sound clinical basis around, not only the threat space and behaviors of concern, but the flip side of that – and this is relevant to what Tom and Robyn are talking about – resilience. Because what we know is people that are resilient and have high levels of emotional intelligence and are functioning well are almost immune – I’m never going to say it fully, 100 percent. I never say that in my field – but they’re almost fully immune to going on a shooting spree. The Dalai Lama is not going to go on a shooting spree. Why? Because he’s managing his emotional relationship life in a way that that is not a viable solution to his problems, among many other, more prosocial, proactive, appropriate ways of managing.
George Vergolias: [00:23:19] So, that led me into also needing to understand the world of resilience and the world of more adaptive functioning as a buffer to violence risk. And then, I joined R3 about ten years ago. And in that time, we have expanded our Disrupted Event Management program. We’ve expanded our Fitness for Duty program. I developed a specialized Fitness for Duty evaluation called the Fitness for Duty with the Violence Screen, which identifies people that are struggling at work with hostility and anger management issues. And that has kind of brought me to today.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:23:54] Great. And so, from the work that R3 Continuum does, and you mentioned a few of the different service outlets that they provide, I mean, you obviously see all varieties of workplace impact from either a death of a coworker, workplace violence, pandemic stress. Based on the cases that you’ve seen and worked, what is the common impact on employees that you’re seeing from the challenges and stressors faced over the last year-and-a-half?
George Vergolias: [00:24:22] Yeah. It’s a great question, Jamie. There’s a lot of individual variables, to be sure. But we’re clearly seeing patterns. And the patterns are consistent with what the data is coming out of CDC, Department of Health, Johns Hopkins, among other places. Clearly, we’re seeing an uptick in anxiety. We know that during the pandemic, anxiety has been up fourfold. We also know depression, depressive symptoms, has been up roughly threefold.
George Vergolias: [00:24:47] We are seeing an uptick in suicidal ideation. But, interestingly, we’re not necessarily seeing an uptick in suicide attempts. That’s kind of an interesting dynamic that I still think, across the field, we’re unpacking a little bit and trying to understand that. Typically, a suicidal ideation goes up, attempts go up. So, it’s kind of an interesting variable that we’re seeing there.
George Vergolias: [00:25:06] Stress in general is also going up. All of that, I think, is expected given the nature of the pandemic, how disruptive it has been in all of our lives. But there’s been this kind of bimodal or opposite effect I’ve seen where people are simultaneously – well, it’s changing a bit now. But you go back a year ago, many people, many workers were simultaneously disconnected and reconnected at the same time.
George Vergolias: [00:25:36] The disconnection was all the ancillary, more superficial, but still very meaningful connections we had in our day-to-day life. Bumping into that person at Starbucks every morning. Going to your kid’s little league and talking with the other parents. Bumping into people at the grocery store that you would actually stop and talk to you or give a hug to. Coworkers in the office, stopping at the water cooler, having a lunch at the breakroom, going out to lunch.
George Vergolias: [00:26:04] All of those things came to a pretty abrupt stop in early 2020. And we lost that immediately. And I think for most people, including myself, who’s been doing this almost all my adult life, I grossly underestimated the positive impact those small connections make. I call those emotional strokes. Those small emotional strokes every day when they’re ripped away from us.
Intro: [00:26:28] At the same time, for many of us – not all of us – what it did is, it forced us to go very, very local. So, after a couple of months of struggling in the soup, in the thickness of it, what started happening – at least in my neighborhood, and I heard this about others – as people started having fire pits, and they started getting together in the driveways, and they started reconnecting with neighbors in a way that the manic lifestyle previous to the pandemic just didn’t allow us to do. And so, it was kind of this weird thing of disconnecting with something that’s very powerful. But also for many – not all of us – reconnecting.
George Vergolias: [00:27:06] What we have found at R3, both internally and externally, with many workers is perhaps one of the hardest hit groups, were those groups that were typically younger, unmarried, and living in apartments. They didn’t have the neighborhoods necessarily where they could go to someone’s driveway and bring lawn chairs and socially distance. They were literally just stuck in their apartment and they didn’t necessarily have that kind of engagement. So, we saw it across the age span, but we tended to see that really negatively impacting those younger groups, the 20s and young 30s, a little more intensively. But I would say those were some of the big trends that we saw in our work and even internally amongst our own employees.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:27:53] So, for an employer, when they’re looking at supporting their employee mental health, particularly since there is so many different individual variables that can impact it, what is one thing that you would say they need to make sure they’re considering that someone might be missing right now as they’re looking at different programs or ways to support their employees?
George Vergolias: [00:28:14] So, there’s a lot of talk, Robyn made a great point, about understanding and awareness. There’s a lot of talk about communication. And these are the ones that are kind of out there. The one I don’t hear as much that I would pick – if you’re going to force me to be on an island, Jamie, and pick one, which is a great question. It really makes me think – I would say this, model strength in vulnerability. Everybody this last year has fallen.
George Vergolias: [00:28:41] And, again, get off social media, because, again, what we tend to do with social media is reviewing other people’s highlight reels when we have our behind the scenes reel that we’re comparing our behind the scenes reel to their highlight reel.
George Vergolias: [00:28:52] But model strength and vulnerability, as a leader do that as well. It doesn’t mean we break down totally. It doesn’t mean we lose control. But it does two things. It gives our people – I’m going to use that more generally term here – permission to feel whatever they need to feel during this process. And as we go into the upswing of the Delta variant and how they’re talking about a possible Lambda variant down the road, this continues to be a valid thing. But it gives people the permission, if you will, the validation to say, “Yeah. You can stumble. You could fall down. That’s okay.” Because we’re all going to do that at different times.
George Vergolias: [00:29:31] But what it also does by modeling that you have done that as a leader and then you’ve gotten back up, it also models what resilience is about. Resilience is about never faltering. Resilience is about when you falter, you’re able to work through that, learn from it, and grow better from it.
George Vergolias: [00:29:48] I always think of the image of a lobster. I saw a talk years ago where a rabbi was talking about how does a lobster grow. And a lobster grows by constantly pushing against its shell until it literally breaks out of its shell. And then, it grows bigger and it forms a new shell. And then, it grows bigger and breaks out of that shell. When you look at resilience through the lifespan – by the way, breaking of the shell isn’t easy. It’s a tough process. It’s painful. But when we do that through the life span, we’re not always getting better on a linear trajectory. But over the aggregate, we’re constantly improving and getting stronger in terms of our sense of emotional functioning and resilience. I would say model that in a way that gives your employees a sense of hope and motivation.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:30:35] So, are there support tools, or resources, or approaches aside from showing that vulnerability that they can use to help support their employees as they’re showing that vulnerability? Maybe it’s, “I use this service too.” Can they promote it? What are some approaches that they can use that help their employees to get that support that they need?
George Vergolias: [00:31:00] Sure. And I’m going to start with something that’s going to sound tremendously self-serving, but I mean it authentically, and that is, you need to understand the problem. If you don’t understand what’s going on with your people, you’re going to be just throwing things at the wall and some might stick, but many won’t. So, you need to screen the problem and understand the nature of it. And that’s where Tom and his group with nView are instrumental in terms of the kinds of surveys, and questionnaires, and tools that they have available to help understand that.
George Vergolias: [00:31:30] From there, you also need resources that can help deepen awareness, educate people, and guide them in the right direction towards either whatever self-help structures they need. Or, in some cases, if they need guidance to more formal clinical services. And, again, that’s where Robyn and SharpenMinds comes in. So, I know that sounds very self-serving, but again, we wouldn’t be partnering with these groups if we didn’t have that kind of fully-round full support that we all provide together in a way that enhances all that we’re bringing to the table.
George Vergolias: [00:32:02] In addition, I would say you need clear communication strategies. So, people feel able to come forward with the concerns that they have, but also feel able to give feedback to leadership about what’s working and what isn’t. And then, we all need a sense of humility. And leaders, it’s so hard when you roll out a big program. It’s really hard a year later to look in the mirror and say, “That isn’t working.” r “Parts of it aren’t working.” And we need to reshape it so that it works. And I think that’s where that humility comes in to constantly reassess our tools and redesign what is working and what isn’t working.
George Vergolias: [00:32:40] What I love about, in particular both these groups, SharpenMinds and nView, is – you know the old saying, if all you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail – both of these groups have a full toolbox of solutions that they bring to the table. I also think that – I think we’re going to get to this maybe later – leveraging apps in the right way can be very useful. I’ll leave that as a teaser because I think we might be touching on that later on.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:33:10] Awesome. And so, if somebody wanted to get in touch with you, how could they go about doing that?
George Vergolias: [00:33:15] The best way to reach me is if you go to our website, obviously, www.r3c -that’s the letter R-the number 3-the letter C.com, and you could just search under our profiles and about, George Vergolias, Medical Director. I’m quite easy to find. And both my number and my email are located in there.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:33:38] Perfect. So, now, we’re going to have a word from our sponsor. Workplace MVP is sponsored by R3 Continuum. R3 Continuum is a global leader in providing expert, reliable, responsive, and tailored behavioral health, crisis, and security solutions to promote workplace wellbeing and performance in the face of an ever changing and often unpredictable world. Learn more about how our R3 Continuum can tailor a solution for your organization’s unique challenges by visiting r3c.com today.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:34:10] So, now, we’re going to come to a group discussion and conversation. I have some questions here for our Workplace MVPs. The first one is, why should employers be concerned with the mental health of their employees today? And so, let’s start out with Dr. Young. From your perspective, why should employers be concerned?
Tom Young: [00:34:31] You need to understand your employees. You need to communicate with them. So, I think that’s the first thing. I think we just take the broader picture for just a moment. Healthy emotionally strong individuals also spend less money in the medical space. So, if you think about it from the employer’s standpoint, just a minute and step away from the behavioral health space and, say, talk about cost issues. If you’re self-employed, for example, you’re an employer who pays their own bills, healthy emotionally strong people don’t spend as much money on their health care. Their chronic diseases are not as bad, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease. So, from that standpoint, good mental health is associated with lower cost.
Tom Young: [00:35:23] And then, secondarily, we all know and I think it’s readily apparent, people who are resilient, as George and Robyn have talked about, as I often say to people, “Look, you know, there’s a choice between being happy and being right. Which one do you want?” So, those who choose happy often are more productive, they’re more creative. They’re less likely to be absent. They’re less likely to make mistakes. So, all of those things, I think, are reasons for employers to be involved in, and communicate with, and discuss, and make offerings into the wonderful world of wellbeing, if you will, on a mental health level.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:36:14] Robyn, do you want to add your thoughts around this conversation?
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:36:18] Sure. Of course, in addition to what Tom and George have shared, there’s a statistic that, I think as we all know, but the Kaiser Family Foundation found in particular 47 percent of women and 34 percent of men experienced increased anxiety or depression last year working remotely. So, as we’re looking at what could be, again, around the corner here in the pandemic, we want to just be really mindful of all of those resiliency builders that, both, George, Tom, and I have been kind of talking about. And know that the little steps that you take do matter.
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:37:00] And there’s been also an incredible impact on women in the workplace and in the workforce to be mindful of, in particular, what the sort of burden on women in the workspace has been like. We also know there’s just been a substantial increase. I know eating disorder treatment has increased almost double last year, the admissions. And we’re seeing that because of things like increased time on social media, lack of kind of that structured environment, irregular sleep schedules. So, all of these things speak to that loss in productivity that Tom was referencing. And it’s all a great reason to begin the conversation if you haven’t already.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:37:50] And, George, how about from your perspective?
George Vergolias: [00:37:54] Yeah. So, there’s two things I would highlight, and they’re not exactly related. I’m going to start by piggybacking off something that Robyn just said because I think it’s a great point. Related partly to the burden on women, but the impact of social media. And that is, as we re-enter the workforce, I think there’s going to be a tendency for leaders to be like, “All right, guys and women, we’re back.” And by the way, as a Chicago native, guys means all inclusive. “All right, guys, we’re back. Let’s make up ground. Everybody work, work, work, productive, productive, productive.” People need socialization. They need some water breaktime. They need that lunchbreak more than ever. They’ve been deprived of it for a-year-and-a-half plus.
George Vergolias: [00:38:38] And those emotional strokes are tremendously life affirming. We spend a third of our life at work, most of us that don’t work remotely. Even when we travel, a third of our life is spent with this cohort of peers. We’re going to need time to re-engage. So, keep that in mind as a leader.
George Vergolias: [00:38:57] So, another thing that I would highlight is, hostility is up. We have clearly seen an increase in incidents of mass attacks, which the FBI defines as four victims or more not including the assailant. What’s really interesting is, historically, for the past 30 years, those mass attacks have almost predominantly been targeted predatory violence, meaning non-emotional. An assailant would be attacking a group in a very cognitive, focused, predatory mindset. Most of the attacks we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, massive shootings, have been emotionally charged attacks, barbecues, parties, family get togethers where there’s an emotional dispute, neighbors, arguments at a grocery store over masks or whatever or vaccines or whatever. It’s a different dynamic than we’ve historically seen.
George Vergolias: [00:39:51] And what it clearly is telling us is, people are more and more on edge in general. We know this from depression and anxiety and stress levels. But they’re also on edge at a level where it’s boiling over more into emotional reactive anger and even violence. And so, I think companies have to be very mindful as they enter back that the role of workplace violence prevention and hostility management is going to be more important than ever. That’s an important thing to keep in mind.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:40:25] Great. And so, looking at mental health issues, the stigma, though, there’s been a lot of work to kind of break down the stigma of mental health, it’s still very real. So, when looking at an employer, what can be done, as Dr. Tom Young has mentioned, as open the door for employees to have a place to begin that journey easily? How can an employer create that comfortable environment where an employee knows what resources they have available to them and can feel comfortable to seek out those resources without that stigma being attached to it? And we’ll go ahead and start with you, Dr. Vergolias.
George Vergolias: [00:41:07] I heard something recently by a colleague that was quite brilliant. It was in response to the Olympics and it was in response to Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka pulling out of the games. And he said, “Wouldn’t it be interesting in a much better world if we were disappointed for them or with them versus in them for pulling out?” And that’s me kind of captured is, as we re-enter and if we want to destigmatize mental health – which I think is continually to be important – we have to change the dialogue from being disappointed in people and conveying messages both overt and covert, and understanding that we could still be disappointed for them.
George Vergolias: [00:41:48] When somebody that’s on a high career trajectory and skyrocketing in their career at a large firm suddenly has a mental health breakdown, and it kind of very well may derail that career trajectory, it’s not like they woke up one day and planned it and wrote out, “Dear Diary. I’m looking forward to my breakdown.” So, we could be disappointed for them and with them. And then, work on getting them the resources that are needed to help them get kind of back on track and reclaim their life. And I think just those subtle rewording kind of changes our orientation to the problem and it becomes less of a stigmatizing issue.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:42:24] How about you, Dr. Young?
Tom Young: [00:42:27] Well, interesting, I was saying the same thing George was, you know, how can we change the discussion, for example, around Simone and those folks. And so, I agree totally with George on that. I think the other thing is, I think, employers, leaders, and organizations need to be more humanized. I think one of the things that happens as we ascend to leadership, we tend to become a little bit less our own selves, our own humanness, if you will.
Tom Young: [00:42:59] And so, I think one of the things that is important is for leaders to understand and be able to voice their own personal struggles, not only with the pandemic, but to be able to own up to, if you will, their emotions, so that their employees understand, “Well, if he can talk about it or she can talk about it, then maybe I can talk about it. Then, maybe I can ask someone about it.” So, I think that process of self-humanization or re-humanizing, depending upon what the process has been, is critical at all stages of employee relationships. People need to understand that you have struggles, you’ve had problems.
Tom Young: [00:43:57] And I think, often, when employers can have those levels of discussions, when they can level the discussion playing field between the individuals in an organization, whether it’s a boss, an employee. But if everybody is on the same level emotional playing field, then good things happen.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:44:26] Robyn, do you have anything you want to add to that?
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:44:28] Yeah. I mean, I’m going to keep my talking points a little bit more examples of what I’ve seen deployed. Sharpen offers various components that are supportive to getting this conversation started. It’s kind of our specialty in terms of that pure engagement, that George is talking about, and the real focus on those human stories of not only the struggle piece, but the stories of strength. So, we know it’s extremely protective when we’re listening and hearing stories like Simone Biles and others who are coming out and talking about.
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:45:06] And it’s not just mental health disorders or substance use disorders. This is like life has been hard. We are talking real challenges. Like, how do I juggle all this? So, one of the things that I think has been really effective, we’ve seen a lot of employer groups and a lot of our clients leaning into kind of lunch and learns where, again, we have all of these video based stories that are resiliency focused. You can play those afterwards, sort of have a little dialogue, just literally leaning in and getting the conversation started right there in the workplace. People are very interested in that.
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:45:47] They’re also very interested, there’s really simple like poster campaigns, daily email, daily prompting that just, again, normalizes this conversation using content that is validated and has a strong evidence base. And then, through these CHRO groups, what we’ve heard – and I’ll tell you, it’s just so simple – they were like, wouldn’t it just be cool if we could have a place where different groups of employees and maybe the manager groups in a safe and identified way could just share with each other, either in text, maybe it’s just through another platform, conversations about, “Hey, how are you guys managing raising three kids and then getting to work on time?” Again, not necessarily about mental health disorders, but just life stress. So, those were some of the examples that we’ve heard, of course, especially in the last year.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:46:41] Great. So, looking at those various resources, apps is a big topic. So, there’s a lot of different consumer apps and business apps that are available to help people assess their own mental health and find a therapist to talk to, either online or in-person. So, how does what nView, Sharpen, and R3 Continuum offer differ from these other apps that are out in the space? And we’ll go ahead and start with you, Robyn, and get your perspective on that.
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:47:10] Yeah. So, aside from R3 and nView being, literally, the gold standard, so when you look under the hood of what’s there, the research validity, the number of clinically validated studies – I think Tom, nView, you guys are up to, what, 19,000 now? So, I mean, there’s nothing else like it. So, it’s truly the gold standard. And I think you want to know that when you are putting a mental health screening tool in front of an individual and also those best gold standard crisis response supports and intervention, that George has been discussing, I think, you want to make sure you’re obviously in the best care possible.
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:47:53] I think it’s the combination of the three with the high customization, the localization, so it’s really local when you’re talking about where do I go to get care, what kind of sliding scale, other supports are available for the family members that are involved. It’s that level of detail that I think, as a trio, we are laser focused on.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:48:17] Great. How about you, Dr. Tom Young?
Tom Young: [00:48:20] I agree with what Robyn said. I think it really is key. It’s hard for people, and always has been, to make decisions about quality in broad areas like health care. It is difficult. And I think the more straightforward and uncovered we can make that, we can make those statements with whatever we’re offering to people, I think that’s critical because people have a look into our world as much as others.
Tom Young: [00:48:54] And then, I think the other thing is the ability to respond to what they are asking. Here’s my product, respond to it. But that might not be what you’re asking and what your need is. So, helping people find the right spot, there’s sort of one I always use. There’s a old tribe of Apache Indians that used to live in the mountains of New Mexico. And their whole goal in life from a religious standpoint was to find the right spot. And that was the drive, that was the journey of life. And so, I think sometimes we need to help people find the right spot, even if it’s not our spot, it’s their spot.
Tom Young: [00:49:40] And so, I think having broad tools that are all quality allow people to have the right place to find themselves in that tool is the way to go. Not just, “You have to like my tool. You have to like what I’m saying. You have to believe what I’m saying.” But rather, “Here it is. Let us help you find your spot in this tool. Where does it fit for you?”
Jamie Gassmann: [00:50:04] Great. How about you, Dr. Vergolias?
George Vergolias: [00:50:07] Boy, you know, between Robyn and Dr. Young’s response, I don’t have a whole lot to add. Other than, I guess I’ll amplify that slightly by just saying, I remember one of the earliest things I learned in writing forensic reports. I had a mentor – it’s like my second mentor, actually. I wish my first told me this, it would have been better years earlier. But he said, “You know, the problem with your reports, George, is you’re writing for other psychologists. You’re not writing for your audience.” And at the time, my audience were lawyers and judges, and judges don’t think like psychologists.
George Vergolias: [00:50:37] And in this space – and this is what I love both what Dr. Young and Robyn are doing and our own app, R3 resiliency app, which is an app for employers and EAPs that give you a number of tools around stress management and so on – what I love about all of these is that they really are based on evidence-based approaches to these problems. That’s important. You can’t be making this stuff up. There needs to be an evidentiary base. But it’s written in a way that is very accessible. It’s written in a way that laypeople can understand the concepts and then apply them in a way that it quickly gets off psychobabble and gets on to what is the functional impact in your life. How is this going to help your life and help you help make your life better?
Jamie Gassmann: [00:51:24] Great. So, one last question for this group. You know, obviously, there is employers out there considering different resources, different tools. They’re making lots of decisions around how do they put that program together. If you could leave one advice or one thing that they should be considering or looking for when making these decisions for either the employees or supporting just the employment, the health, but also then expanding it to their families. From your experience, what would you advise employers to be thinking and doing as they’re making those important decisions for their employees? I’ll go ahead and start with you, George.
George Vergolias: [00:52:08] Again, these are good questions. It’s hard for me to pick one, but I will. You know, we all know the saying, hope floats, right? I love it. It’s a big saying that we’ve heard. It’s big in the south. But I like to say hope floats, but it don’t swim. Hope is great. And that elevates people. But they need tools. They need direction. And they need support to get from the middle of the river to the bank, if that’s the goal.
George Vergolias: [00:52:38] And related to that, I’ll just say that, one doesn’t drown by falling in the river. They drown by staying submerged in it. And so, if we keep these in mind as kind of our guiding mantra as leaders – I certainly try to, I don’t always succeed – I think we’re going to be in a really good place as we go forward. Because this next year – as we return, whatever that may mean for different organizations – as we return to work, it’s going to be different than what we’ve ever experienced. We’re not just going back to 2019. It’s not going to happen. So, we need to be thinking differently as we go forward.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:53:13] And how about you, Robyn?
Robyn Hussa Farrell: [00:53:15] Well, of course, I would agree with Dr. Vergolias and everything Dr. Young has conveyed thus far. I think I would encourage employers to have some self-compassion. This is big what you’re faced with, especially in the H.R. space. I’ve seen and I’ve heard directly the stress you guys are under. And so, just give yourself a little grace there and to know that there are really smart people who have got you and who can help you put this together. So, I would say don’t think you have to do this all on your own.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:54:01] How about you, Dr. Young?
Tom Young: [00:54:03] Well, I’m going to key on what George said about falling in the river and hope floats, being a guy from the south. I think, as an employer, what you have to understand is when your employee is in the river, what you need to throw them is what they need, which is a life vest, a lifebuoy, if you will. And not just any rock you pick up off the shore. And there’s an old Winnie the Pooh story about when Roo fell in the river. And everybody was standing on the bridge, so Eeyore decided that somebody had to do something. And what seemed like the most important thing at the time was he put his tail in the river so Roo would have something to grab on to.
Tom Young: [00:54:54] And I think there’s a certain truth to that, employers need to know that I’ve got to just be there to throw what I can that’s appropriate. And somebody may have had to tell me, “Here’s a lifebuoy.” But when they’re in that crisis, when they’re in that river, you have to do something. And, often, we need to just help employers understand what the most appropriate thing to do is at that moment. And the moments are always going to be different. They’re never going to be the same. No two people are the same. So, I think the real key for an employer is to be willing and open to themselves to ascertain the right thing to do at the moment and not be stuck in their own belief system.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:55:50] Great. Well, thank you all for letting us celebrate you and for sharing your expertise and advice with our listeners. We appreciate you and I’m sure your organizations and staff do as well. We also want to thank our show sponsor, R3 Continuum, for supporting the Workplace MVP podcast. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in. If you have not already done so, make sure to subscribe so you get our most recent episodes and other resources. You can also follow our show on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter at Workplace MVP. If you are a workplace MVP or know someone who is, we want to know. Email us at email@example.com. Thank you all for joining us and have a great rest of your day.