Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mental illness in the wrok place

I chose the topic of Mental Illness in the work place, because it is a topic that hits home for me.

Having a mental illness makes finding work hard. This might sound many things; sad, ridiculous, surprising, frightening, unlikely, justifiable, or understandable. You might secretly feel something you would not publicly air. It's nothing to be ashamed of, we all have overt or latent prejudices, but it is most certainly something to be aware of and to open your mind about.

Most of us are familiar with the concept of 'the glass ceiling' in relation to various forms of discrimination in the workplace, whether it is gender, race or even sometimes religious. The belief, no, the fact, that people are exposed to opportunities they will never be allowed to realize. The employer is seen as blameless as they have complied with anti-discrimination legislation, but the employee knows he or she has been denied the chance, knows he or she has been wronged despite being suitable for the role, purely because of gender, race or religion. There is no way of absolutely proving beyond doubt this is true, but we know it happens don't we?
The term 'mentally ill' covers such a range of individual illnesses from anxiety to schizophrenia, substance abuse to clinical depression, bipolar to OCD that in some respects it is inadequate and an unwitting misnomer. These conditions are vastly different to each other and each complex in their own way. But one thing we all have in common is the conditions are invisible. They do not have a straight forward diagnosis, much less a simple prognosis. This leads in large part to the stigma, which is attached to mental illness.
Socially, this is a problem. Admitting to mental illness is seen as a sign of weakness or inadequacy and commonly engenders a response which is overly patronizing, disdainful or aggressive. The latter is what we depressives call the “pull yourself together" syndrome. If only it were that simple.
Beyond the social stigma is an equally serious and personally crippling problem. Having recovered sufficiently to look forwards in a positive frame of mind, how do I find employment?
If your 'friends' and family fail to understand the condition, how can we expect potential employers to comprehend? With a vast gap on your resume, this leaves the applicant with a potentially life changing dilemma.
The options such as they are. Lie about your condition taking the risk you may lose your job upon the employer finding out or being frank from the outset, risking never gaining employment at in the first place.
Many efforts have been made to accommodate physically disabled people in the workplace. Sadly the same cannot be said for those of us with mental illness. The stigma, borne largely of ignorance, which surrounds mental illness has much to do with this failure.



I am available to speak in your city, for your organization, school, or synagogue.
Please contact me at 443-415-0449 or at rabbischoenes@gmail.com for fee and scheduling information.





Friday, September 15, 2017

Stigma about mental health

We share the details of our physical lives so willingly: our latest diet, our kid’s need for braces, maybe a family member struggling with heart disease. But when it comes to mental illness, everything is under wraps. The shame and stigma surrounding mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, are the biggest obstacles when it comes to getting help. It’s time we started looking at mental health the same way we do physical health.
Unlike other health conditions, mental illness is often seen as a sign of weakness. We’d never tell someone with breast cancer to “just get over it” or work on their willpower, but that’s the advice people with eating disorders, substance abuse problems, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues hear all too often. And those suffering from mental illness also often think of it themselves as weakness. I believe the reason is that without experiencing some form of mental disorder, you can not understand what the individual is going through.
Depression affects about 7 percent of the U.S. population, and I am one of them.
Yet despite the obvious prevalence of mental health issues, talking about it often is a struggle.
Mental illness is just like any chronic physical condition. It can be managed with counseling and/or medication, and there will be both good and bad days. As debilitating as mental illness can be, it isn’t–and shouldn’t be–the defining characteristic of a person any more than, say, being allergic to pollen or having high blood pressure should be.  
All that said, things are getting better. There’s more awareness these days about mental health issues and more support groups, thanks in large part to the internet. 
The best thing we can do, at any time, is to talk about mental illness the way we talk about other health issues–openly, with empathy and a desire to understand, and separating what the person is suffering with from the person him- or herself.



I am available to speak in your city, for your organization, school, or synagogue.
Please contact me at 443-415-0449 or at rabbischoenes@gmail.com for fee and scheduling information.


Monday, September 11, 2017

9/11 through the eyes of a Seven year old

As I sit here by my computer, I can not help but think back to the day that changed the world forever.
Imagine for a moment what it was like for a second grader. I remember when we were at school, and already before he bell rang at nine O'clock, the word spread that there was a terrorist attack in New York city. Rumors were spreading, yet we did not have facts. No one knew much, but we knew even less. I remember thinking about all the People I know in New York, The friends, the family, etc.(Years later I found out that a cousin of mine was killed on that day.) I was scared. Soon after class started, the teacher told us that as an extra precaution, all the schools were closing. You would think that for a young student at the beginning of the second grade that I would be happy to have a day off school, but no. As my father was at work, I went home with a friend, when his parents went out of the room, we turned on the T.V. and saw the news. After a few minutes of watching the news, his parents walked back into the room. I turned to my friend's parents and asked why can God let this happen. As expected there was no way to answer the question.
When my father came home from work that night, he would not talk about it. He told me to stop thinking about it, let the adults deal with it. I could not let it go.
while it is not much, I hope that this blog post gives you some perspective on what it was like to be seven years old on September eleven,  the day that changed the world forever.





I am available to speak in your city, for your organization, school, or synagogue.
Please contact me at 443-415-0449 or at rabbischoenes@gmail.com for fee and scheduling information.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Resentment and Forgiveness

As a recovering addict, I hear all the time that resentment is an addict's number one offender. While this is true for someone in recovery, it rings true for each and every person.
Resentment may feel involuntary, however, the truth is it is a choice, and there is a way to let it go. Feeling resentful has a powerful effect on your physical, emotional and mental health. The effects of resentment are also negative to all other areas of your life. Feelings of resentment affect the choices and decisions you make, the actions you take, the way you communicate with others.

 Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.

So how do you let go of that resentment? Write down who or what you are resentful towards. Then go through and write down what you’re angry about, how does the resentment affect you and those around you, what does it do for you, and then write down what part you played in it.

Here’s an example from my own list (I may regret this later!):
I am resentful at: Sarah (not her real name)
The reason: She did not call when she said she would.
What does the resentment do to me? It makes me feel as though my friends are abandoning me.
What does holding on to it do for me? It helps me feel better than her. “Can you believe she did something like that? I would never do something like that.” (Oh, and that makes me a liar as well!)
My part in the situation: I pressured her into saying she would call when I knew she is very busy with volunteer work and a family.

Some of the most important steps on the road to forgiveness are:
Acknowledge your true feelings
Recognize the cost of the resentment
Focus on the payoff of forgiving
and realizing that you had a part to play in the situation.




 I am available to speak in your city, for your organization, school, or synagogue.

Please contact me at 443-415-0449 or at rabbischoenes@gmail.com for fee and scheduling information.