Mental health

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Hard-Knocks Restaurant Workers Are Embracing Mental Wellness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/11/2020 - 3:01am in

When employees clock into work at Mulvaneys B&L, a popular farm-to-table restaurant in Sacramento, California, they’re encouraged to slip one of four color-coded cards into a cardboard box. The cards have faces on them: one is happy, one is angry, one is neutral and one is stressed (in restaurant parlance, that’s “in the weeds.”)

“It’s like the pain signs at hospitals,” explains co-owner Patrick Mulvaney. Though the cards are anonymous, they give employees a chance to assess their own moods and share them with the manager or the peer helper on duty. During the staff’s pre-service meeting, the manager can share how many angry or stressed employees there are that day and ask if anyone needs additional support, empathy, or patience.

The box, which was co-owner (and Patrick’s wife) Bobbin Mulvaney’s idea, is just one measure put in place by I Got Your Back, a year-old peer-to-peer counseling program that the Mulvaneys helped start in response to several suicides in the Sacramento restaurant community in early 2018. In May of that year, Noah Zonca, the beloved, larger-than-life longtime chef of Sacramento’s the Kitchen, where Mulvaney also worked, died by suicide. He was one of 12 Sacramento restaurant workers to die by suicide that year. A month later, the issue of restaurant industry suicides was thrust into the spotlight when celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain hanged himself in a hotel in Alsace, France.  

Frankie Lopez, a manager at Mulvaneys B&L, and bartender Dan Mitchell. Photo courtesy Patrick Mulvaney

Even before Zonca’s death, the Mulvaneys had been having conversations with Sacramento chefs and restaurant owners, health care professionals, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, state senators and even Governor Gavin Newsom about how to tackle mental health issues in the hospitality industry. But the losses of Zonca and Bourdain added a sense of urgency. The final iteration of I Got Your Back came out of a design workshop at the Innovation Learning Network conference in October 2018. With the financial support of the James Beard Foundation and all four major area health systems — Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health and the UC Davis Medical Center — a pilot was launched in September 2019.

Restaurant workers are especially prone to mental health and substance abuse issues. As journalist Kat Kinsman, founder of the blog Chefs with Issues, has written, “People who deal with mental health and addiction issues are drawn to this work because it has always been a haven for people who exist on the fringes; restaurant jobs have brutal hours and often pay very little and don’t offer health care; there is easy access to alcohol and illicit substances; and workers have traditionally been rewarded for their masochism — shut up and cook.” 

Kevin Ritchie, executive chef at Mulvaneys B&L, wearing an I Got Your Back pin. Photo courtesy Patrick Mulvaney

Indeed, research shows that the hospitality industry is especially vulnerable: a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that service workers in tipped environments are more likely to develop depression, sleep problems and stress than those in salaried industries. And mental health experts say that the Covid-19 pandemic — and its subsequent closures and layoffs — have only exacerbated anxiety, depression and substance use. 

This makes peer-to-peer mental health support programs like I Got Your Back more crucial than ever. The concept is simple. Restaurant workers are more likely to confide in their peers than they are in their boss or manager. “They’re not going to talk to me as the chef,” says Mulvaney. “But they’ll talk to Kevin, Jana, or Lisa.” Members of the staff are asked if they’d like to be peer helpers, called Purple Hands. After an eight-hour Mental Health First Aid training (some of which are conducted in Spanish), these staff members wear a Purple Hand pin during service so that everyone knows they are the point person for anyone experiencing a mental health challenge. Each restaurant aims to have one Purple Hand on staff for each shift.

Anonymous face cards let employees assess their own moods and share them with the manager or the peer helper on duty. Photo courtesy Patrick Mulvaney

Twelve Sacramento restaurants participated in the pilot, which ran from September to November 2019. The results were promising. Nearly 70 percent of restaurant workers said that they would be somewhat or very likely to discuss their mood or mental health concern with a Purple Hand co-worker. And 22 percent of respondents reported that they had talked to a Purple Hand at their restaurant about their mood or other mental health concerns.

Jana Rogers, a server and sommelier at Mulvaneys B&L, has worked in the restaurant industry for 29 years, 12 of them at Mulvaneys. “The people I work with are family to me,” she says. “I love the people I work with.” So training to be a Purple Hand peer mentor was a no-brainer. Part of her role, she says, is to help build a culture where “it’s okay to not be okay.” In that respect, she says, the program has succeeded. Co-workers often check in with her mid-shift and tell her they’re struggling with something. “They’ll say, ‘Before you leave tonight, can we chat? I’ll be brief.’ And even if it’s one in the morning, we’ll chat,” Rogers says. “And we’ll at least get something started, so the person doesn’t feel alone and isolated.” 

restaurantJana Rogers (center), a server and sommelier at Mulvaneys B&L, wearing a Purple Hands pin. Photo courtesy Patrick Mulvaney

If necessary, she also connects her co-workers with mental health professionals or other resources. At Mulvaneys, when employees clock out at the end of the night, they each get a slip of paper that says, “I Got Your Back — we’re there for you!” with all the Purple Hand peer counselors’ names and phone numbers on it. That way, if they are anxious or depressed later — or during a day they’re off — they’ll have easy access to their co-workers’ contact information.

Rogers thinks the program has already helped change the culture at her restaurant — just by normalizing mental health issues. “As the conversation is becoming more prevalent, it’s shifting the reaction we have to the words ‘mental health,’” she says. “It is removing part of the stigma.” 

Patrick Mulvaney is frequently invited to speak about the program. He’s spoken at the California Restaurant Association conference, Slow Food Nation in Denver and the James Beard Foundation’s Chef Action Summit. And he’s talked to restaurateurs in at least ten other states who plan to implement the initiative. He’s even gotten calls from the State of California, NYC Thrive (the city’s mental health care initiative) and Active Minds, all of which are interested in adapting the program to other industries.

Chefs are good at making stuff happen, notes Mulvaney, but not too good at asking for the money to make it happen. But they should get over this, he says. “Especially on this issue, people continue to be generous, so don’t be afraid to ask for money, advice, or guidance,” he says. “Especially money.” 

The post Hard-Knocks Restaurant Workers Are Embracing Mental Wellness appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The Seize The Moment Podcast On Philosophy And Anxiety

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/07/2020 - 11:54pm in

Last week (or so), I appeared on the Seize the Moment video podcast, thanks to an invitation from Leon Garber (a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Psychotherapist, specializing in existential psychotherapy, who manages a blog exploring death, self-esteem, love, freedom, life-meaning, and mental health/mental illness) and Alen Ulman (who manages Ego Ends Now, a growing community for expanding consciousness about science, medicine, self actualization, philosophy and psychology.)

Leon and Alen were wonderful hosts; this led to an eclectic and wide-ranging discussion–which beginning from my essay at Aeon on anxiety, ranged over the following topics, as summarized by Leon and Alen:

    • The importance and utility of anxiety in self-discovery.
    • The influence our beliefs have on our perceptions and conceptions of the world.
    • Why emotional intensity should be redirected rather than suppressed.
    • The universality and inevitability of existential anxiety.
    • Human diversity and our inherent inability to fully capture an individual’s essence.
    • The fluctuating history of our understanding of mental illness.
    • How normality is used to sustain power structures.
    • Overcoming false dichotomies to see the strengths in our weaknesses and vice versa.
    • The sense of relief and freedom accompanying one’s acceptance of the inherent meaningless of the universe.

Do give the podcast a whirl, and please do leave comments and questions!

The Grasshopper And The Ant Podcast On Philosophical Counseling And Anxiety

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 4:46am in

I’ve recently had the pleasure of recording an audio podcast with the folks over at the Grasshopper and the Ant on the topic of philosophical counseling and anxiety. Many thanks to Pawan Bharadwaj for having me on and for giving me the opportunity to describe philosophical counseling, its relationship to philosophical reflection, to alternative therapeutic traditions like psychotherapy, and to its application to ‘problems’ like anxiety.

I’ve also recently recorded video podcasts with my friend John Tambornino (a fellow philosophical counselor) on the topic of philosophical reflection and our nation’s current racial crisis, and with the folks at the Seize the Moment Podcast on the topic of generalized anxiety and philosophical reflection. I’ll be posting links to those podcasts as and when they become available.

Philosophical Counseling And Hellmuth Kaiser On Successful Therapy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 2:05am in

In Existential Psychotherapy (Basic Books, New York, 1980), Irvin Yalom writes:

The therapist healed, [Hellmuth] Kaiser believed, simply by being with the patient. Successful therapy requires “that the patient spends sufficient time with a person of certain personality characteristics.” What personality characteristics? Kaiser cited four: (1) an interest in people; (2) theoretical views on psychotherapy that do not interfere with his or her interest in helping the patient to communicate freely; (3) the absence of neurotic patterns that would interfere with the establishment of communication with the patient; (4) the mental disposition of “receptiveness”-being sensitive to duplicity or to the noncommunicative elements in the patient’s behavior. [p. 405; link added]

Note that Kaiser here specifies ‘personality characteristics’; these are not a matter of formal, professional qualification or training. Rather, these speak to the personal dimension of the interaction the therapist brings to her encounters with patient (or client.) They address, most directly, the question of what kind of person, what kind of human being, the therapist is. 

The first, ‘an interest in people,’ is considerably under-specified, but at the least we would expect the therapist to be in the trade because she is genuinely interested in the perplexity of the human condition, and find human beings’ problems to be worthy of sympathy, and generative of empathy. Without this minimal personal qualification (sadly missing in all too many supposed ‘healers’ today) the therapeutic process is doomed. 

Kaiser’s second requirement speaks to letting the therapist’s personal interest in the client trump any preconceived views of therapy; the client’s personality and problems are foremost, and if they do not fit an accepted template of treatment, diagnosis, analysis and prognosis, then so much the worse for the theoretical model.  This requirement means the therapist cannot be rigid and inflexible; the client cannot be shoehorned, brutally, into an existent mold of treatment. Theory is always trumped by the living testimony of the physically realized, concrete client present in the ‘clinic,’ not the abstract, blood-and-flesh-less ‘case’ of therapeutic theory. 

The third is a rather more direct claim on the personality of the therapist. Every therapist, as a human being, suffers from his or her understanding of their life; they often, if not always, require therapy themselves. These by themselves are not an impediment to therapy; however, an established, stubborn neurotic pattern of behavior (excessive, obsessive, selfish, self-interest being an obvious one) that would interfere with listening sympathetically or that results in intolerant, abusive responses to those seeking help, is an obvious disqualification. 

The fourth is an abstract claim but can be made more concrete by considering it an extension and elaboration of the first requirement: the therapist’s interest in people must entail a particular sensitivity–perhaps borne from acute observation, listening, and learning about humans and the human condition–that makes him or her alert to the complexities of a patient’s personality–such as lack of transparency, duplicity, intellectual dishonesty, lack of forthrightness–that can interfere with the therapeutic process.  

These personality characteristics are not designed to be eliminated or created by professional training. You cannot create an interest in people, for instance. In Kaiser’s view then, the therapist is not as much a qualified technician, as much as he is a sympathetic and engaged human being, committed to helping other human beings just like him. Imperfect, but hopeful of learning and reconfiguring themselves. 

In Memory of Mateusz

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/06/2020 - 10:56pm in

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We have received the tragic news that Mateusz (also known online as Gepetto, Antoni Lulek and Feliks Domański) has succumbed to his depression. He was only in his mid-twenties.

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Zen capitalism’s ‘McMindfulness’ makes us all poorer…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/06/2020 - 3:01pm in

There is a concerted effort to depoliticise misery while actively cultivating it with austerity. The more miserable we are the more we accept shit jobs, shit lives and shit futures. Haven’t had a pay rise in seven years? You’re lucky to have a job. Six month wait to get a tumour removed? Be grateful we have the “heroes” to do it in the NHS at all. The message is, the world is dying, get used to it.

Mindfulness, or Zen capitalism, privatises our pain which further alienates us and prevents us from working together for real solutions.

The post Zen capitalism’s ‘McMindfulness’ makes us all poorer… appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Reflections on Mark Fisher's Essay on "Capitalist Realism"

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/06/2020 - 1:35am in

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Fisher's book on Capitalist Realism remains a popular reference point for many would be anti-capitalists in the UK. As such, we have decided to translate this new review from our comrades in Italy, where the book has only recently been published. See also our reviews of Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work and Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by authors from a similar milieu.

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Philosophical Counseling And ‘Mental Illness’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/06/2020 - 11:54pm in

Are philosophical counselors counselors qualified to ‘treat’ the ‘mentally ill’? The short answer to that is ‘no’ (associated with the query, ‘depends on what you mean by mental illness’.) A slightly more considered answer, which I attempt to provide here, makes note of the particular competences and constraints of the philosophical counselor.

First, a note about philosophical counseling practice and its interaction with traditional modalities of counseling and therapy. Its place is, and should be, similar to the relationship current modalities of talk therapy enjoy with psychiatry. That is, a philosophical counselor typically works with a psychiatrist for referrals–a psychiatrist might recommend that someone seek counseling as a supplement to the modalities of medication and psychiatric treatment (for talk therapy is often paired with pharmaceuticals to address both biological and cognitive aspects of ‘mental illness’), and conversely, a philosophical counselor might recommend that a prospective client should seek psychiatric, medical, pharmaceutical help as a supplement or exclusively. (Traditional psychotherapists often recommend some clients consider medication as a way of making their talk therapy sessions more efficacious; this allows moving past distracting behavioral symptoms to concentrate on more fundamental cognitive issues.) This arrangement requires good faith assessments of client requests for help: when should a prospective client be directed to an alternative modality of treatment?

My assessment during the initial free consultation I offer my clients is quite simple: May I engage in directed, interactive, conversation with the person who has come to me seeking help? If not, I will not attempt to counsel the person. If a person is afflicted with a ‘serious mental health disorder’ of some kind then they might not be the ones seeking help; rather, someone might make such a call on their behalf. In those circumstances, the default option is to seek psychiatric help. In one recent instance, I was consulted by a woman seeking assistance for her father, possibly suffering from borderline personality disorder; I referred the family to several psychiatrists practicing in the city, and offered supplementary ‘talk therapy’ if psychiatric treatment had commenced. As a supplement, and not as a primary modality; such ‘talking through’ as noted, is often paired with psychiatric treatment.

To emphasize: if a client comes to me seeking help, my initial consultation offers opportunities: a) for the client to investigate and determine whether I’m suitable for them and b) for me to assess whether this is a case that I can take on. Any doubts about the ‘fit’ of counseling into the ‘mental health space’ rest on this inquiry: Is a philosophical counselor competent enough to decide whether he should be taking on a case? Will the counselor err on the side of over-inclusion and take on cases that he should not be? Will he refer and ‘treat’ the right ones? The most serious risk is that I will ‘treat’ someone who is ‘mentally ill’ and do ‘harm’ of some varietal. This risk is tempered by my professional caution, my prudence over the possibility of committing malpractice, and my professional competence at assessing my capacity to be able to aid someone through the tools at my disposal: my philosophical knowledge and my personal and professional experience.

There are risks present in the world of psychiatry, counseling, and psychotherapy: that clients are over-diagnosed with mental illness on the basis of the conceptually incoherent DSM, that pharmaceutical medications are over-prescribed, that cognitive solutions to ‘mental problems’ are overlooked in favor of biological and neurobiological ones that ignore social context and personal history. (Should people with ‘life problems’ always seek medical help? No. They run the risk of being over-diagnosed and over-medicated. Are all ‘life problems’ evidence of mental illness? No. Are some folks incapacitated sufficiently by their particular ‘mental disorder’ that they require some form of pharmaceutical treatment? Yes.) Philosophical counseling is an intervention in this fraught space; it aims to provide an alternative, constrained by a guiding ethical principle that calls for modesty and prudence and humility. While claiming that many of the problems that take people into a therapist’s office can be resolved without recourse to medication, it acknowledges its limitations (and those of other therapeutic disciplines) and notes that often, when treating those whose minds are ‘disordered’ or ‘disturbed’ or ‘ill,’ we are seeking to minimize harm to them and their loved ones, that we are seeking to make them socially functional and competent, and that in those cases, a medication that provides such basic cover might be the best treatment possible.

The philosophical counselor is a professional bound by a code of ethics similar to the medical one: first, do no harm. My primary duty is to the person presenting to me, and my desire to ‘help’ is tempered by a knowledge of my limitations. Because of the risks involved, my guiding professional principle is to seek advice when required; my personal interests, capacity, and competence, dictate that I only take on some kinds of cases. A variety of issues–such as relationship crises or depression–underwrite the vast majority of cases that bring people into some form of counseling and therapy. It is here, in this domain, I seek to ‘practice.’ My ‘methods’ are inadequate for some cases; my initial consultation is designed to help me make such determinations when required.

The philosophical counselor does what he can, and no more. He is modest, yet not reticent, about philosophy and philosophical counseling’s ability to bring ‘relief’ to the most common of all afflictions: seeking answers on how to live our lives.

Hidden Beneath the Surface: Untold Tales of Neurodivergence and Mental Difference in Oxford

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/10/2017 - 1:48am in

World Mental Health Day 2017

Mental Health System Overhaul Still Coming

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/10/2015 - 11:35am in


Mental health