Written by Shane Metcalf, Chief People Officer at 15five and CultureCon 2022 Speaker
Feeling burnt out? Pretty much everyone is. New reports come out on the regular stating the truth that we all know - everyone from front line workers to executives are at the end of their rope. It’s understandable - the news cycle is a non-stop series of heart wrenching crises that tests all of our mental fortitude on a never ending basis. Throw in the effects that a few years of pandemic induced isolation has had and it’s not surprising that we find ourselves in the midst of a very real mental health crisis.
This crisis has a silver lining though - it’s causing companies to wake up to the reality that the mental and emotional wellbeing of their people needs to be a business priority - that the interiority of the humans they employ has a massive impact on their ability to produce results and impact the bottom line. Unfortunately, we can’t simply “turn off” anxiety and depression and burn out during the workday and then resume the psychological battle in the evening.
The last few years have seen a very welcome shift in how employers are providing proactive mental health support and resources to their employees. However, it’s just not enough. The free access to Headspace, unlimited teletherapy, zoom meditations and all the other attempts at bringing in supportive programs just aren’t cutting through the collective trauma and internal struggle.
What else can be done? Aside from anti anxiety pills, antidepressants and talk therapy and lifestyle improvements, what other options do we have to treat mental health at the root instead of just hacking at the branches? Turns out that while we’re in the middle of a mental health crisis, we’re also entering a mental health revolution. That revolution is occurring in the form of the new world of psychedelic assisted therapy, or PAT for short.
PAT is an umbrella term that includes everything from Ketamine Infusion Therapy (which is now legal in all 50 states) to MDMA assisted talk therapy (which is in phase 3 trials with the FDA) to Ayahuasca (Peruvian plant medicine) ceremonies and countless other approaches.. For the purposes of this article and for the practical hope of providing this highly effective form of therapy to mainstream professionals, I’m mostly talking about Ketamine Assisted therapy.
There’s a phenomenal amount of medical research that’s been conducted on Ketamine assisted therapy, and the science is clear. This stuff works better than anything else in the arsenal when it comes to most forms of anxiety and depression. It’s not a magic bullet that works for every single person, but compared to other approaches, the results aren’t even in the same ballpark. We’re talking about a completely novel class of treatments that can transform someone's mental and emotional well being in a matter of a few treatments vs indefinite prescription of pharmaceuticals that produce countless other undesirable side effects.
As the Chief People Officer for my company, my primary objective is to co-create highly engaged and high performing teams that accomplish our business objectives. Mental health struggles are one of the greatest roadblocks to psychological thriving (and therefore engagement and performance), so the math isn’t that difficult. This is a superior method of therapy that supports people in becoming better versions of themselves and it’s why I’m introducing PAT as a company benefit.
Is this taboo? Sure. We’re fighting decades of misinformation about these molecules, but the tide is changing. Psychedelic medicine is rapidly gaining credibility with each new study published, with each new NYT article detailing the remarkable results. All you need to do is talk to people who have transformed their lives and overcome debilitating trauma to understand why the time has come to make these treatments more widely available.
I believe this is just the beginning. Over the next few years, we will see more and more companies making psychedelic therapy an employer-sponsored, insurance-covered treatment available to employees that stand to benefit. Leaders and companies that are dedicated to their people will know that they cannot simply ignore the mental health crisis that we face and the role that employers play in combating it. And forward thinking people leaders will see the value in offering a benefit that can be truly transformative for the people that they lead.
In order to thrive in the new age of work, companies must become adept at balancing the demands of a high performing organization with the need to care for the whole human, and at building work cultures that are not soul crushing but soul enlivening. Psychedelic therapy can be a key piece of that puzzle.
I am so excited to be a part of this discussion and movement. I truly believe that this moment in history is an opportunity for employers to take a step in the right direction of changing the world of work for the better.