Mental Health Complexities of Difficult Employment Decisions – Dr. Les Kertay

Date: 11-2-2021 • Runtime: 16:30

How will workplace healthcare mandates impact your workforce mentally?
The pandemic and the new workplace mandates force employers to make tough decisions, leading to employment loss for thousands of workers.

Are you ready? If yes, what’s your action plan to support your employees?

In this session #7 of Axiom Medical’s OSHA COVID Compliance Summit, Dr. Les Kertay is giving expert insight into how employers can support and help their employees with mental health complexities in an event of difficult employment decisions.

[00:02] – Holly Foxworth

Welcome back. Now, I know we need to officially say it’s good afternoon, but we are now on session seven of eight in the Axiom Medical Fast Track to Ocean COVID Compliance Summit on a virtual basis here. So we’re tickled that you joined us. My name is Holly Foxworth. I am a registered nurse. I’m also the webinar host and the marketing manager of content here at Axiom Medical. We’ve had a great day going through all the various sessions, and it’s been a great experience to be able to provide you guys with such dynamic information, but then also the industry experts that have the best practices.

So just kind of recap there. We’ve actually gone through. We started with the keynote address, and so that was from Dr. David Michaels. He was actually the former assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. And then we jumped over to Chuck Kable, our Chief Legal and HR officer that spoke about some of the HR legal implications. We then went with Axiom’s President and CEO Mark Robinson about ESG. We picked up the unannounced OSHA inspections and what you should be doing to prepare with HSC. And I guess we call them HSS here. And the area manager, which was Connor Trotter, Linda White, which is our IT security director. She spoke about data cycle management, security, and management there. We finished up just now with our dynamic duo of CMO Chief Medical Officer Dr. Scott Cherry and Chief Marketing Officer Dara Wheeler. And they spoke to us about total worker health in the new modern world. So next up on deck, we have Doctor Les Kertay and he’s actually going to speak to us about the mental health complexities of some of these difficult employment decisions that have to be made as we approach that period of the mandates going into effect and kind of how it is not only that things you need to consider, but also maybe what some best practices and things that you may want to consider that you haven’t done so before.

[02:07] – Holly Foxworth

So before I will just mention a few quick announcements. At the bottom of your screen, you’ll see there are all the boxes, there are those icons. If you were to have a technical issue, select the one that looks like a question mark and that will get you in touch. You can chat back and forth with an Axiom representative who can provide you with some troubleshooting tips. Our question and answer session is a little bit different than what we normally do in a webinar. We now have what’s called a breakout room, and so you can join that at any point. We do have people that are there, Axiom representatives that are live that you can interact with, but you can actually engage and interact with our speaker, which is Dr. Les Kertay. He’ll be there after he completes the presentation and shares the additional content. So we’ll have, like, a 30 minutes session where you can engage with him directly. So the only other thing I’m going to mention before we turn it over is the access for your next session, which would be the wrap-up, and we have Denis Bakers, he’s going to be joining us for that. But if you haven’t already registered, the way that you can get that done easily is before you close out your browser. At the conclusion of this session, there will be a prompt that comes up, and all you need to do is just press the “Register Now” key, and that will give you a link to be able to access that. So without further due, I think that sums up everything I was going to share. I’ll go ahead and turn it over to Dr. Kertay as we discuss the mental health complexities of these difficult employment decisions. Dr. Kertay? Can you hear us now?

[03:55] – Dr. Les Kertay

I can hear you. Can you hear me?

[03:58] – Holly Foxworth

All right. Perfect. We can hear you now. Yeah. Go ahead.

[04:00] – Dr. Les Kertay

Okay. Well, I’ll thank you again, Holly. Welcome, everyone. I’m Senior VP for Behavioral Health for Axiom Medical and a clinical psychologist by training. So I’ve been involved in and developing some expertise in workplace mental health for the last 20 or more years. So far today we’ve been talking about and I am trying to advance the slide, which is not behaving itself. There we go. All right. Anyway. So we’re going to wing it here. We’ve been talking today about what’s happening with COVID mandates, the OSHA mandates that we expect to be coming, and we’ve been talking about rightfully so how employers are going to adjust to those mandates and their expectations. We’ve had a lot of conversations about what to expect. I think something that maybe is easy to forget is that while employers are managing those difficulties and managing how to handle these things, your employees are watching you very carefully, and they are dealing with their own set of expectations. What does this mean for me? What does this mean for my job? How does this impact each of us? If I am hesitant about getting a vaccine, am I going to lose my job? All of those things are going on in the context of a pandemic that already has enormous implications for mental health.

[06:03] – Dr. Les Kertay

And when I talk about mental health implications, it’s not just that. It’s just not just mental health diagnoses, but we’ve all been experiencing the stress of changing workplaces, different expectations, being really uncertain. Human beings really dislike being uncertain. And here we are. We’re in a pandemic. We don’t really know from one minute to the next what’s going to happen. And it’s a disease we don’t really understand. So that adds already to the normal stresses of the workplace. We can become afraid, there’s additional isolation that’s involved, especially early on staying away from other people, maybe being in remote work when we weren’t before. And of course, there are normal feelings of anxiety and day-to-day sadness that may be clinically significant in anxiety disorders and or depressive disorders. All of that is going on in the background of these mandates and how employers are going to respond to them. And I think it’s really critical that we spend a few minutes just talking about how important it is for employers to get a handle on your workforce, your employees, both individually and on an aggregated basis. So I have about eight minutes to tell you everything I know about mental health and employment decisions, but at a very high level, I think one of the things that the pandemic, frankly, has changed for us. It has always, in my opinion, been true that mental health is health. There is no distinction between physical health and mental health. They always happen together. They’re always happening in context together. And the pandemic has really put a spotlight on something that’s been going on for a very long time. In addition, to which we have all of the uncertainties that are currently, that has been going on since the beginning of the pandemic, and now they’re even accelerating with the mandates. And the truth is that we are increasingly aware that we just lack sufficient mental health support and resources. We are not getting mental health care to the people who need it at the time that they need it in the way that they need it. And that’s really the number one problem to be solved. Kind of breaking that down a little bit more. There’s really a lack of public education awareness when it comes to mental health. We don’t tend to understand it.

[09:05] – Dr. Les Kertay

And as you saw a couple of slides ago, I think of mental health as being much more than just diagnosable psychiatric conditions. We’re talking about everything from day-to-day stressors all the way to severe psychiatric conditions and everything that comes in between. I think because it’s a subject that has been difficult to talk about. It has a lot of stigmas associated with it, and we tend to avoid it. So we don’t really think of it in this kind of spectrum approach as part of total worker health, which we spoke about just briefly before with our two CMOs. And I think that the primary solution to this is really to transition from a reactive approach to mental health, waiting until someone is in crisis before we identify, giving them some help to a proactive approach where we are identifying, how are your employees doing again, both individually and on an aggregate basis? How are they doing? How do we monitor that? How do we help get them the kind of support that they need, some of which is just simply reaching out to them as we go. And some of them are in terms of formal programs.

We’ve been spending a lot of time and energy at Axiom. We’ve worked with our customers to establish best practices for managing workplace health. In general, we’ve really pivoted to additionally address more and more the mental health components of this, and part of what we’re developing are solutions that really make good use of health technology. I think that’s a best practice that we need to attend to. There’s more and more mental health technology that’s out there that can really help us get a pulse for our employees. Through that, I think we can begin to establish a mental health wellness baseline so that we can recognize where people are in relation to themselves and in relation to the population that you’re dealing with, to your employee population. Part of the solution is then to monitor how are people doing? We’ve done that in physical senses around COVID, for example, how our daily check-ins for how people are doing with symptoms to make sure that we are appropriately addressing physical health conditions. Some of the same solutions can really apply to mental health and then provide early access to health resources.

[12:12] – Dr. Les Kertay

And by that, I think also, if we’re dealing with someone when they’re stressed, with an employee who’s stressed, and perhaps you’re having to have a difficult conversation with them about vaccines, about monitoring regularly, about frequent testing. All of those conversations you have to have, the initial phases of that are simply stress. Well, helping someone cope with stress is one level of intervention that doesn’t require psychotherapy. It doesn’t require extensive intervention. On the other hand, there may be additional stressors in somebody’s life, and that extra push from the employment situation can really trigger a crisis in mental health and perhaps does require a referral for treatment or reaching out to someone to see how are they doing? Do they need additional support and then helping them get that. Those are the kinds of solutions we’ve been talking about internally. And I think those are the kinds of solutions that employers really need to be thinking about is getting people the support that they need in the right amount at the time that they need it rather than waiting until you have a crisis on your hands. And while you’re making these difficult employer-employee decisions, having all of that in mind, not just for that specific employee, but your whole workforce is watching you, and that’s impacting the morale in your workplace. It’s impacting the whole culture and how you work with that is an important piece of dealing with the pandemic. And that isn’t everything that I know in eight minutes. But it’s a start.

[14:12] – Holly Foxworth

Awesome. Thank you, Dr. Kertay. You did such a fantastic job, and I’m sure you guys have picked up at this point, but I am team Kertay. We are so excited to have him here. He’s such an amazing addition to our team. And I think that the subject of mental health and normalizing some of these conversations is such a big deal. For a long time, there’s been so much stigma that goes around that, and I’m really thankful to see that Axiom has made a commitment to move in this direction and recognize the significant needs that are there for mental health. And Dr. Kertay is an amazing leader, and he is really going to oversee and take us in some new directions that we haven’t previously explored. So it’s going to be a fun time at Axiom and really be able to make a difference in what’s going on in so many different places. So great information, Dr. Kertay, I appreciate it. You did a fantastic job. Just a reminder that we will have Q & A that’s going to be going on there, right there in the break room that we talked about before, the breakout room. So that is open now and he will meet you there. If you have additional questions, even if you don’t have questions, and you just want to listen to what everybody else has to say. That’s okay, too. I think that’s the primary, the biggest thing I wanted to mention once we close this out again, if you haven’t already registered, you will get the prompt to do so and that will give you your link. We will see you there and heads up. This is our last one that’s coming up. So see you shortly. Thank you.