WORKPLACE WELLBEING

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Mental health has no boundaries.  No one is immune.  Listen in as I share my story of being a high-performing corporate executive who lived in silence in the workplace with undisclosed mental illness and alcohol misuse.  Learn how I used my experience to teach leaders how to normalize the conversation about mental health in the workplace and empower others to step forward and say, “I’m not ok and I need help.”

Ready to have a conversation about creating a culture of safety in your organization?

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Our Children Are Speaking; Are We Listening?

May is Mental Health Awareness month. It is an honor to have my friend and fellow mental health crusader, John Broderick as a guest blogger. John is the former Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court and Senior Director of Public Affairs at Dartmouth Hitchcock.
 
He shares his personal story to raise awareness that mental illness can affect any family. His story is powerful!
 
John also developed “The 5 signs of mental illness campaign.”
 
He said, “mental illness is the only illness from my childhood that remains in the shadows. We need to change the culture surrounding emotional suffering and we need to begin by letting everyone know its five most common signs and that early detection and treatment yield great success.”
 
He is a beacon of hope and spreads the message that you are not alone, it’s ok to not be ok, and it’s ok to ask for help.
 
John and I have joined forces to deliver quarterly “Virtual Nursing Grand Rounds” at Dartmouth Hitchcock called, “Changing the Culture Around Mental Health.” The evaluations speak volumes and illustrate that we are making a difference by changing the conversation about mental health.
 
I invite you to read his article below.
 

GUEST BLOG
by John Broderick

We need to realize that treatment is possible and that the pain and loneliness can be lifted. When I was young, and for most of my adult life, nobody spoke about mental illness. I was so ignorant about it that I didn’t see its onset or progression in one of my sons when he began suffering at 13. My ignorance drove decisions that took our family quite publicly to very bad places.

Through the grace of God and the skills of others, we survived and healed. Treatment saved my son’s life and restored ours.

What are we waiting for? We need to finally open our hearts, change our minds and at long last no longer tolerate the shame and stigma that have kept too many people and families suffering alone and afraid for way too long. This culture change will cost us nothing but it will pay huge human dividends. Our kids are speaking to us. We need to hear them and support them.

OVER THE LAST 32 months, I have driven more than 70,000 miles on the main roads and back roads of New Hampshire on beautiful fall days and wintry ones, too, on a mission to change the culture and conversation around mental illness. It is the most important work I have done in my professional life. And I don’t say that lightly.

I have spoken to thousands and thousands of young people in countless gymnasiums and auditoriums asking for their help to change the often-unforgiving culture around mental illness that has existed for generations. And they listen. Some share their own mental health struggles with me in private moments and many more thank me for coming and talking about it.

Often, the students who share their emotional struggles with me have wet eyes and cracking voices. Sometimes they give me a hug and sometimes I offer them one. I remind them that their illness is not who they are. Some tell me they are ashamed of their mental illness or that others are ashamed of it. I have hugged several students in my travels who tried to take their own lives.

My school visits and conversations with young people have opened my eyes. I now see what was hiding in plain sight my whole life.

I wish you could be with me on those mornings when kids confide in me in such a personal way in the most impersonal surroundings. I wish you could see their young faces and experience the power in their tears and the relief in their hugs. All they need to hear to open up is that their mental health challenges are not their fault, that help is possible and that I won’t be judging them or blaming them for their suffering.

The students want to change the mental health culture, too. They want a different conversation as much as I do. They want the stigma to end and the shadows and shame to recede. They continually confirm my belief that silence and ignorance are not our friends and that emotional suffering is not preordained. I am inspired by these kids every time I am around them.

For real culture change to happen and for transformative conversation to begin, we all need to know what mental illness looks like, because half of it begins by age 14 and very often the young person afflicted doesn’t realize they have an illness. They think it’s just them.

John T. Broderick Jr. is the senior director of external affairs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and formerly served as chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Learn more about how John and Kim have teamed up to change the culture of mental health visit.

Ready to have a conversation about creating a culture of safety in your organization?

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The Conversation With My Leader That Saved My Life.

I was a high performer in the workplace.

I met and exceeded goals, was a leader and a trailblazer, and the one who mentored my team.  Outwardly, I appeared successful and like I had everything together.

Inwardly, I was carrying an immense amount of shame because I was living in silence with undisclosed depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

In April 2016, my leader noticed subtle signs I was displaying in the workplace that caused concern.

She took it upon herself to take action and flew from NJ to Boston to spend the day with me.

She asked me to be honest about how I was feeling and what was really going on “behind my mask of high performance.”

I shared everything with her that day. 

The intense suicidal thoughts, crippling depression, and anxiety.  The one thing I was too afraid to share with her was that I was 7 years sober from alcohol and what I was experiencing was part of my recovery.

She looked me in the eyes and said, “Kim – how have you been functioning at such high levels while dealing with so many mental health issues?”

She was stunned that the ‘Star’ on the team was also the one who needed a lot of help.

We talked.  We cried.  We hugged.  We laughed. 

My leader held a ‘safe space’ for me that day.  She created a container of safety in that conversation that allowed me to feel comfortable opening up.

At the end of the conversation, she told me to take some time off.  I had been overdelivering on goals and she wanted to recognize that.  She gave me permission to take time for me.

Memorial Day weekend was coming up and I had been yearning to go away on a retreat to find peace and solace.  I googled “retreat, memorial day weekend 2016” and found the work of Byron Katie.

I drove 5.5 hours to upstate NY and experienced a weekend retreat that changed my life. 

When I arrived at the retreat, my fire and my internal light were completely nonexistent.  I felt hopeless, unworthy, unloved, and like an imposter.

By the end of the weekend, I had found my light and started to heal.  I am so grateful.

What is most important is that my leader saw the signs and took action.

Her ability to see the subtle signs that I was not well is to be commended.  I was a chameleon in the workplace and was a master at hiding my pain and my truth. 

Because of her, I was able to speak openly without fear.

That was liberating for me!

At 12 years sober, I have learned that my story is not unique. Many people live behind a mask in the workplace because of fear, shame, and stigma.

What is unique is that I am willing to be vulnerable and share my lived experience to illustrate that we are not alone.

Addressing mental health in the workplace is critical. One in five individuals will experience a mental health episode in their lifetime. The rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental illnesses is skyrocketing due to COVID.

Leaders are searching for tools to help normalize and support the conversation about mental health.

I recognized this need, felt a calling, and made a drastic change.

On 4/1/2020, I stepped away from my role as Director of Partnerships (in the middle of a pandemic), and started Kim LaMontagne, LLC.

I recognized a pattern across the corporate world regarding mental health in the workplace. I took it upon myself to create a training solution that would be easy to implement, user friendly for busy corporate leaders, while providing the very tools I needed when I was suffering in silence.

I created “The 4 Pillars of Creating and Sustaining a Mentally Healthy Workplace Culture.” This training is changing the dialog about mental health in the workplace by teaching leaders how to build a culture in the workplace that encourages open dialog about mental health.

The full day training is currently available live via the zoom platform and on-demand to provide instant scalable access to this critical content.

LEARN MORE HERE

Ready to have a conversation about creating a culture of safety in your organization?

Now is the time to address mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Lives depend on it.

Help me, help you, help others.

The most powerful organizations empower employees to speak openly about mental health without fear of judgement, retribution, or job loss.

Kim LaMontagne, MBA, International Speaker, Trainer, and Author.

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I Slept Through The Hotel Fire Alarm …

I slept through the hotel fire alarm at a corporate sales meeting.

The evening before, I had won the Directors Choice Award at a Business Development Sales Summit. Ironically, the Directors Choice Award was meant for one who is a leader, a trailblazer, someone committed to excellence.

I felt honored to receive that award and also felt like an imposter.

I celebrated with my coworkers after the event, and in usual celebratory fashion, one drink led to two drinks which led to several more. I have no recollection of walking back to my hotel room that night.

I learned the following day that there was a fire alarm in the hotel, and everyone evacuated, everyone but me. I was passed out in my room.

I also learned about “all the funny things I did.” I didn’t recall any of it. Outwardly, I laughed with my coworkers about the events from the night prior but inwardly, I was humiliated and ashamed.

I have been a high performer in the workplace my entire career. I was a mentor, coach, leader, trailblazer, and nightly drinker. My daily dose of evening wine was 4-6 large glasses followed by morning hangovers.

I wore a mask of high performance and happiness in the workplace, but behind closed doors I felt like an imposter. These masks hid the intense amounts of shame and guilt I carried because I knew I had a problem, but I was afraid to talk about it. I was afraid to admit to my alcohol use because I feared being judged, losing my integrity, and ultimately losing my seat at the corporate table.

Because of stigma in the workplace, I didn’t feel like I had a safe space to speak openly about my internal pain. Consequently, I kept it hidden and remained silent.

SILENCE IS TOXIC.

As a result of the hidden pain, I fell deep into a deep depression, experienced waves of anxiety, and experienced intense suicidal ideations.

During this time, I remained a high performer. I wore a suit of armor to hide my pain.

On July 16, 2009, I made the call that changed my life. I called my doctor’s office at 4:45pm and was seen at 5:15pm by the most kind, compassionate, nonjudgmental nurse practitioner. He saw the pain and anguish in my eyes and knew I needed help.

He looked me straight into my eyes and said, “Kim, you are living with a few treatable illnesses. I am going to help you and We are going to do this Together!”

He created a container of safety within the walls of the exam room and allowed me to speak my truth. The safe space he created for me is the reason why I am here today.

At 12 years sober, I have learned that my story is not unique. Many people live behind a mask in the workplace because of fear, shame, and stigma.

What is unique is that I am willing to be vulnerable and share my lived experience to illustrate that we are not alone.

Addressing mental health in the workplace is critical. One in five individuals will experience a mental health episode in their lifetime. The rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental illnesses is skyrocketing due to COVID.

Leaders are searching for tools to help normalize and support the conversation about mental health.

I recognized this need, felt a calling, and made a drastic change.

On 4/1/2020, I stepped away from my role as Director of Partnerships (in the middle of a pandemic), and started Kim LaMontagne, LLC.

I recognized a pattern across the corporate world regarding mental health in the workplace. I took it upon myself to create a training solution that would be easy to implement, user friendly for busy corporate leaders, while providing the very tools I needed when I was suffering in silence.

I created “The 4 Pillars of Creating and Sustaining a Mentally Healthy Workplace Culture.” This training is changing the dialog about mental health in the workplace by teaching leaders how to build a culture in the workplace that encourages open dialog about mental health.

The full day training is currently available live via the zoom platform and on-demand to provide instant scalable access to this critical content.

LEARN MORE HERE

Ready to have a conversation about creating a culture of safety in your organization?

Now is the time to address mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Lives depend on it.

Help me, help you, help others.

The most powerful organizations empower employees to speak openly about mental health without fear of judgement, retribution, or job loss.

Kim LaMontagne, MBA, International Speaker, Trainer, and Author.

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