One area that I have not yet covered over the life of her podcast, Redesigning Wellness, is the topic of mental health. I found today’s guest, Joseph Rauch, from his articles on Huffington Post that discuss mental health in the workplace.

The heart of this episode is to open up a discussion about mental health and take listeners into a deeper understanding of what one faces when wrestling and coping with a mental illness. Joseph will graciously share his own story of what it was like to live with anxiety depressive disorder throughout his formative years and now, as an adult in the workplace. Joseph will also share valuable insights regarding how to approach mental and chronic illness in the workplace and how starting the conversation is an incredible step towards awareness and change.

3 Key Points:

  1.  We need to talk about mental illness in the workplace to increase our awareness and sensitivity.
  2.  When talking to someone with mental illness, abstain from judgment or the temptation to make assumptions; instead, just listen.
  3.  Think about the value of your employee and what they bring to the company as opposed to any illness they may have.

Time Stamped Show Notes

02:40 – Joseph describes himself as an open book and tells us about how his illness started. When Joseph was 12 years old, his family moved to Beirut, Lebanon from the USA and he started to have intense psychosomatic symptoms

04:12 – Joseph was in a lot of pain and discomfort and could not go to the bathroom

05:03 – Joseph developed hemaphobia after witnessing a bombing that killed their former Prime Minister. He was bullied in school because he was the only American student.

05:28 – It was only years later that Joseph realized those events were what started his depressive anxiety disorder

06:05 – Doctors were not able to diagnose Joseph properly

08:07 – Other issues followed throughout high school and halfway through college, Joseph reached his breaking point

08:48 – Joseph’s right arm lost stamina and energy; he felt like his arm was as hard as cement

10:12 – Joseph was scared to go to college, his right arm was hurting and he did not know how he would manage it because doctors kept saying there was nothing wrong with him

11:11 – Joseph was able to chart the times his arm was OK and when he needed to rest it. If Joseph was not able to rest his arm, the stamina would decrease even more

14:42 – Joseph says he felt that every little part of his day took a lot of effort

15:27 – During sophomore year, Joseph was able to find an alternative medicinal treatment that helped with his muscle stamina, but he got sick in other ways

18:42 – Joseph was not able to sleep for 4 days straight and on the fourth day he felt like he was dying

19:07 – During this time, Joseph started to go to therapy and his doctor told him that he had depressive anxiety disorder and that he needed to take an antidepressants immediately.

21:09 – Things began to change for Joseph and he started to go through the healing process

23:16 – Although the sleep got better, things were still not that easy for Joseph and at this time he decided he wanted to become a writer. Joseph struggled in his career as a writer and he still had sleep problems

25:53 – Before he had sleep problems, Joseph could get up at 6 AM

26:18 – When things changed, Joseph had problems going to work at 9 AM and he was tired every day—it got to a point that Joseph slept at work

28:03 – Joseph approached his boss, told him he had a mental illness and asked for flexible work times; his boss was surprised at the request but made it work

30:11 – Joseph felt compelled to tell his boss about his illness and he was relieved that he did because his boss accepted him. He was also able to tell his other co-workers about his illness as well.

33:35 – With his current employer, Joseph disclosed that he had a mental illness immediately as the company deals with mental health

34:20 – His employer did not care about his illness, as long as he is delivering good results

36:53 – For managers who are faced with employees with mental illness, Joseph suggests that they should not be judgmental and to try not make any assumptions

o      37:45 – If you are unaware of what a mental illness is, just listen first and ask those who know about it

38:37 – Unsympathetic answers from managers will only worsen things. When making a decision, think of the employee’s value rather than their illness

40:33 – Be lenient to people with chronic illnesses because if they are good employees, then you are helping them benefit your company

41:50 – Joseph is hoping he can get better and better, so that he will not need the accommodations given to him at work

42:11 – He says there is no person with mental illness that is happy that he has it, but they are dealing with it the best they know how

43:31 – Joseph’s dreams came back when he started to take medication; this meant he was getting a deeper sleep but he was also having nightmares

44:31 – Joseph realized there was a part of him that wanted to die and he decided to just embrace the nightmares for what they were

46:10 – Joseph’s book, Teach Me How To Die, came from a dream he had after he decided to embrace his nightmares

47:42 – Joseph says mental illness is common and he hopes that the time will come where it is not as scary, or weird, or as uncomfortable for others as it is now

Joseph Rauch is the author of “Teach Me How To Die,” a novel about a depressed widower who travels through the afterlife. He makes his living writing about mental health.