Mental illness, Alcohol and Drugs in the Workplace

Despair in the workplace

Substance abuse affects all workplaces, even though it may be hidden, and often ignored with the hope it will never do any damage. But it does cause damage in many different ways.

Current estimates show that 25% of your workforce suffers from mental health issues at any one time. This may be anxiety disorders, depression, trauma and a whole raft of other “diagnosable” disorders, that are often not identified but which fester in the background. The World Health Organisation projects that depression alone will be the second greatest cause of disability by the year 2020. That’s not far away and needs to be addressed immediately.

These disorders are a primary cause of poor performance, absenteeism, relationship conflicts and accidents. At a management level such disorders can totally disrupt the organisation, and unfortunately may not be recognised before it is too late.

Such disorders are also a key trigger to substance abuse which in turn magnifies the effect on both individuals and organisations. So how do we identify the problems in the first place, and then how do we react to an identified problem?


Is it my problem?

It’s an obvious question. If someone in my organisation, who comes under my leadership of job description, has a mental health or substance abuse issue, is it really my problem? Why should I take on added workload to deal with it?

The moral and socially acceptable answer is yes. If you don’t have the emotional intelligence to at least care enough to either intervene of direct someone in this situation to assistance, then maybe you should find another job.

Whether you like it or not you are in the people business. Take the people out of your business and see how long the organisation would last. People are a primary asset and the foundation of your business model – always. So if you don’t wish to involve yourself in the issues of your people the chance are you have a high staff turnover and can’t work out why.

If you wish to look at it from a purely commercial aspect – its effect on the bottom line – then consider this. Mental health disorders typically reduce the persons productivity by 75% and mistake rates substantially, requiring work to be redone or the mistake have more serious consequences. It 25% of your workforce are in this predicament, and there productivity suffers by 75% then overall organisational productivity is downgraded by 18%. That’s enough to make or break many organisations. Still think you don’t need to get involved?

In my work in organisations I see a constant thread through the attitude to workforce management in organisations that are not performing well:

  1. a tendency to spend enormous amounts of time in creating boat loads of statistics
  2. a tendency to towards 360 degree assessments which show little in the way the organisation is functioning, since a significant percentage of the people doing the assessments have no real direction or understanding of the issues involved
  3. a tendency to treat staff as a commodity with the expectation that everyone is there to sell their soul to the organisation.
  4. a tendency to try to fix the problem by bringing in motivational and training organisations to supply a hose down of “hot bath” motivation, which at best changes behaviour for 24 hours.

The net result of such methods is generally failure after failure until the organisation goes out of business or just bounces along the bottom without ever creating a growing and stable organisation. Costs are invariably high and profits or other outcomes low. When a downturn in the economy hits there is too little flexibility or resilience to survive.

So now I have had my rant, let’s talk about the solutions.


What can I do?

My background is in psychotherapy and social planning. I have dealt with people on a daily basis for over 35 years at an individual level and organisational and I can say irrefutably that unless you treat people as unique individuals, with respect and edification, you will always lose.

  1. The way you as a manager or HR professional communicate with your staff will directly determine the profitability of the company.
  2. If you don’t spend time and energy understanding the real underlying Values of your clients and your staff your risk of failure is immense. People, whether clients or management or staff seek respect and inclusion as a prime driver of the thoughts, emotions and behaviour. If this is not honoured you will never get their best work or contribution to the company.

There is only one way for management and HR to identify the problem and that is to interact with PEOPLE as individuals, with unique desires, needs and goals in life. If you respect this and encourage this they will literally die for you.

If you are senior management this may take a change in understanding of processes within your organisation. First, fix your own problems if you suffer from anxiety or depression. This is not something to be embarrassed about or try to hide because frankly no-one takes on such issues as a choice. They derive from our work and home environment and more often than not programming we took on when we were children. Easily fixed. The other common issue is diet, with our modern diet causing deep depression and anxiety. Again, easily sorted.

Once you have done this you will have a better understanding of your people and act with greater compassion and emotional intelligence. We have programs that can sort out entire organisations, starting at the top.

The results? Demonstrable increase in bottom line and a far happier and more productive workforce.

The Scourge of Substance Abuse

Alcohol abuse


Self-medication through the use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol, is a serious and growing problem in societies around the world. The current methods of dealing with the treatment of substance abuse rarely identifies the underlying driving factors, some of which should be blindingly obvious, but are typically overlooked.

Why are they overlooked? Simply because the current raft of traditional psychological and physical treatments do not have rapid resolution tools for the underlying emotional and physical drivers  for substance abuse. So the rule seems to be if you can’t change it, ignore it.

Over 35 years of specialisation in anxiety and depressive disorders, including trauma or PTSD, has shown a clear pattern in substance abusers.

In almost 100% of cases the nervous system is modified by the substance used to deaden or reduce the awareness of physical or emotional “pain”, more often than not driven by deep unconscious self-image / self-worth conflicts. In our society poor underlying core self-image or acceptance affects 95% of the human race, which in turn seriously affects what we do, the relationships we form and our perceived value to ourselves and others. The growing tendency for our society to create higher demands with less social interaction creates an environment of disenfranchisement. This in turn causes a level of emotional pain which drives the use of substance use to deaden that pain. But this is only the start of slippery downhill slope.

If you have looked at and understood the basis of the Neuro-Com Mind Model you will know that unconscious belief and Values systems can only be partially modified in 30% of cases by using conscious “let’s have a chat” processes used by the traditional psychological model.

This is because the memory groups that create the behaviour will not create change unless they perceive an error in their existing processing methods. The current models of CBT used in these processes, which call for the individual to implement, are blocked by the very part of the mind one is trying to modify. So no amount of talk therapy or conscious behaviour modification is going to work long term, creating a very high relapse rate. Every time the individual relapses just embeds the original behaviour deeper as the sense of failure grows.

Of course there are physical addiction models in place which must also be dealt with, but I will look at these in a different post.

To create permanent change in emotional and socially addictive behaviours one must:

  1. Identify the original environment / parental / social factors that created the poor self-awareness in the first place.
  2. Identify the dietary / nutritional regime that has been supporting the addiction. For instance ALL alcoholics become hypoglycaemic which in turn drives the physical addiction.
  3. Remove the physical factors supporting the addiction / anxiety / depression.
  4. Modify the unconscious programs supporting self-image conflicts and anxiety or depressive states. There are specific proven methods with which to do this rapidly which do not involve conscious processing in the normal use of the word.

In the next post we discuss the physical addictions that become embedded in regular substance abusers that also need to be dealt with.

The keys to positive relationships

Neuro-Com relationshipsHow we interact with other people is fraught with dangers and complications, which actually cause relationships to fail far more than they success. We have a common perception that our relationships, be they personal or organisational, should work in a particular way. Most often, they don’t. And this begs the question of “why?”

Relationships only work if the parties to them are congruent from a values perspective. That is, each individual within a relationship has common Values – values that match in a way which provides acceptance and common direction. The less Values in common, the more issues we have and the faster the relationship fails.

Now you may have noticed that I have capitalised the “V” in Values. This is for a particular reason that must be understood to understand the basics of the Neuro-Com Relationship model.

The word value typically denotes something of higher demand or perceived financial importance or that attracts a higher level of moral or ethical interest. In some ways this is true, but the Values (with a capital “V”) that I refer to are the parts of the emotional memory that respond with higher levels of reactive activity or energy when triggered by events or circumstance we find ourselves embroiled in. These Values are memory groups that have been programmed with a higher level of importance or emotional energy, almost always during our first 5 years. Unless we change these deliberately during our lives these Values drive our behaviours, thoughts and emotional reactions for the rest of our lives – including the relationships we are attracted to.

For a relationship to work at all we need at least 50% of these core Values in common. This level of overlap will allow a typical relationship to last 5-7 years before it runs out of another critical element – tolerance. A relationship with 80% Values overlap tends to last a long time. It is perhaps not perfect, but it is comfortable most of the time.

Unfortunately the 80% scenario only occurs in less than 10% of relationships.

So in this we find a key to designing and maintaining great relationships. For more info watch our short video series at It’s FREE!

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