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EAP is NOT a 4-letter word!

October 16, 2019

The Hesitation and Benefits of Employee Assistance Programs

In our past blog, we discussed a mental health concern called burden transfer (as explained by Dr. Spitznagel). We also are aware of other ones such as compassion fatigue and general burnout.

Identifying what you are “feeling” (ie, burden, fatigue, burnout) is critical and the first step to rectifying it. But then what?

Unfortunately, many of us perceive that we are alone with these feelings. Reaching out for help is somehow taboo and not appropriate. After all, we are “supermen,” all powerful and able to deal with every and all critical situations. NOT! superman tshirt

Help is available through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)! Yet many of us treat them like a 4-letter word, not to be spoken and swept under the rug!

Why is this?

Let’s explore a few ideas about why one might hesitate (H) to access these services and what the real benefit (B) would be if used.

H:  “I focus on my patients and not myself.”

In addition, there is a perception that we need to be tough and work things out on our own (this is probably more true for men).

B:  By taking care of ourselves first, it will set us up to better take care of others. No one else can do this for you – it’s your choice to label your health (mental and physical) as important. This is not being selfish. It’s about balance and finding ways to gracefully do what you need to do for you.

H: I’ll be labeled.”

It’s true that there is still a bit of a stigma surrounding mental health issues.

B:  Luckily, our culture is finally changing and discussing these challenges more openly. People who are addressing this head on are seen as strong and courageous. Only by encouraging each other to talk about these matters will we eventually be able to overcome this stigma.

H: I must ask for permission to use the service.”

If we ask about EAP’s or time off to access them, our managers or team members will know we are struggling (refer to the previous hesitation).

cat using phoneB:  Many EAP’s have a 24 hour / 7 day a week number that can be used confidentially. In addition, conversations with the EAP counselors cannot be shared without a written release (following HIPPA guidelines).

H:  “I don’t really understand the process or what it does.”

In general, people tend not to reach out or utilize services when they don’t understand the process or the benefits.

B:  EAPs are confidential, short-term counseling services. And it’s not just for mental issues.  Team members can reach out for assistance in other areas such as parenting, relationships, legal advice, and even money management in some cases.  After all, these areas all contribute to anxiety and stress.

While we’d like to leave our “personal” problems at home, the fact is that they do follow us to work, even if we can keep them in the background.  Then you compound the stressors of the veterinary world and boom, you’re set up for a tough go.

When we are brave enough to reach out, the rewards can be staggering.

EAPs have been shown to contribute to:

  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Reduced accidents
  • Greater employee retention
  • Significantly reduced medical costs arising from early identification and treatment of individual mental health and substance use issues

Start speaking about these issues. Don’t treat EAP like a 4-letter word.

Whether it’s you or a co-worker, we need to recognize that mental health problems will happen.  These problems can be treated no differently than the cold or the flu: identify the “feeling” (ie, burden, fatigue, burnout) and then take steps to treat it.

Recognize that the EAP is here to help, pick up the phone, reach out, and take that step to better mental health!

 

3 members of CATALYST VetPCYour CATALYST VetPC Team

 

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