Do We Disclose Our Illnesses?
I would like to think times are changing where we can speak openly about any challenges we face in the workplace. Celebrities are publicizing their mental health struggles and helping to reduce stigma, however, this doesn’t always translate to those in what I would refer to as more everyday work. For example:
“In one recent study of six hundred people with disabilities, roughly half involving mental health, about a quarter of the respondents said they received negative responses to revealing their problems — such as not being promoted, being treated differently or being bullied.” (Sarah von Schrader, New York Times, Nov 2014)
One inspiring and brave move was documented in the New York Times in 2014 about Patrick Ross, the deputy director of communications at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. After sending an angry email to his superior, combined with temper flare ups and uncontrollable irritability, he was endangering his job. He decided to write down his admittance to having bipolar disorder and give it to his supervisor before a scheduled meeting about his work-related problems. A weight was lifted off his shoulders.
Getting Back Into Work
In terms of finding employment, we are the experts of our illnesses. With support, we need to consider our skills, interests, emotional resilience and personal characteristics in order to find work that we can enjoy and find motivating.
We need to grow and develop. It may be that we start on a zero-hour contract before moving to part-time and possibly full-time. I understand, however, that this depends on our health and financial circumstances.
In getting back into current work, employers need to listen and accommodate our needs. We will need understanding, flexibility and possibly a phased return. It is important we speak up and not be afraid to say, “I need support.” Employers need to respond to this and help us find solutions.
I believe mental health training should be mandatory in all businesses because more than a quarter of us will experience mental illness in our lives and we all need to have a positive attitude towards the subject. At the very least, we should be talking to friends, family or medical professionals to ensure we can offload and relieve stress in order to help us cope with work.
Let’s Stand up and Be Counted
We know we need a purpose in life and employment in whatever capacity can provide this. No one with mental health issues should be discriminated against and businesses should work closely with individuals to ensure the workplace accommodates personal needs. If anyone does receive poor treatment it is up to us to stand up for ourselves and fight back. We should report and take action to ensure that we continue to fight stigma in society to prove we are capable.
However, more and more businesses every day are adopting a culture of wellness, which will ultimately make those with mental illness feel more relaxed, comfortable and equal within their place of work.
- The Samaritans – UK helpline number
- Mind.org — excellent UK resource for all mental health issues with help resources
- Rethink.org — Carers' guide for those supporting people with mental health problems
- Mind.org (Violence and Mental Health Factsheet)
- 1-800-334-HELP – 24-hour crisis hotline in the U.S.A.
- 1-800-273-TALK – 24-hour crisis hotline in the U.S.A.
- Fliss Baker Talks - My blog
- Madly Seeking Sanity by Lola Jane – my book
If ever you feel or you think someone you know is experiencing mental illness take immediate action by contacting a doctor, crisis team, calling 911 if you/they are in danger, talking to someone you trust or calling a support helpline.