I just had a phone call from my boss. I've been fired. Wow.

When I saw the story about Roy (find him on Twitter @badlydrawnroy) and his experience of work place discrimination, I couldn’t help but be shocked and awed.

I was shocked that when he disclosed his mental illness (depression) to his boss, her reply was:

We're a small company, there's no room for passengers.

However, I was in awe of the fact that so many people on Twitter sent Roy messages of support and kindness. It is great to know that even in the world of social media, prejudice is unacceptable.

The stigma that surrounds mental illness is everywhere, and can often be worse than the condition itself. However, there is a way to live with a mental illness and have a career – I am living proof. I am a full time marketing executive, and have been since graduating in 2004. I have won awards, been published, spoken at events all over Europe and have been consulted on large scale media campaigns. Oh yes, and I also have a diagnosis of bipolar and borderline personality disorder.

Living with these conditions should not stop me from being a productive member of society and, luckily for me, they don’t. My employer is a great example of how, with the right support and work place understanding, organisations large and small can employ people with mental heath problems.

How? It really is simple: flexibility. If I am experiencing depression, they support me working from home. If I am having panic attacks, I am excused from high pressure meetings. Even though I have a pre-existing condition, I am allowed to be part of the company health insurance scheme.

My workload is mine to decide. So if I cannot concentrate for long periods of time I can divide my work up into manageable chunks.

The only other ingredients I think a company needs to support people with disabilities, whether physical or mental, is the willingness to listen, the gift of looking at things from a different perspective and the determination to make it work. Organisations may not get it right first time, but they need to be willing to try.

So, to Roy I say good luck, and keep searching for a supportive company who will embrace your differences – they are out there, I promise.


 

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Comments

The coin

I have been a 'boss' now for many years and have suffered from depression for over fifteen of them. One of the problems I find is that as mental illness is now being more readily accepted, people who are just having a bad day or are just fed up are saying they are depressed as it’s a simple way to get time off work. It’s the new 'bad back'. I know that seems harsh, but as a sufferer, I really do have problems connecting with some of them. The ones that I have managed to help and relate to have been people who turn up for work but they aren’t right. I am so conscious this may sound brutal, but as someone who pays wages, I feel it must be addressed. However, I always err on the side of people being genuine until I am proved wrong. From the experiences above, I guess I am in the minority.

And of course the cost of replacement....

I'm glad to hear you have the "Innocent until proven guilty attitude". Nobody seems to look at the costs of replacement. In my sector there is the "10% ers" you pay to find suitable canditates. Then the interruption to delivery that interviewing takes. Then there are two delays 1. Notice period, 2. Training. Following that the person that has been hired may not be suitable for the post. (I have observed this in 75% of the companies I have worked for.) As you have stated. Most of the genuinely ill staff want to carry on despite their problems. I may be lucky that my depression is "situational" and some times I hadn't even been aware that I was suffering from it. Of course when I have become aware of it, it is because I have reached that "event" associated with extreme depression. There is an unusual side effect however. Each time one recovers from a bout, I find one gains an inner strength, or at least a greater ability to see what is real and not perceived ti be such.

Not a penny

So how much does this cost the company. ^^^ Exactly. Time and time again I feel oppressed by my employer, when the simplest thing for them to do is to just listen.

Surprised? Not!

<p>This is exactly the reason why most people do not want their boss to know and they just bottle it up. </p><p>&nbsp;</p>

Champagne Depressives?

I am here because a friend basically told me to pull myself together in as many words, just days after I had candidly and honestly expressed how my illness affects me, and why I didn't make a particular social event. I tried to talk, and explain, and it seemed accepted at the time, but a few days later they come out with that, and I feel talking failed. I now view this as their real attitude and the former short-lived apparent acceptance as a façade. They really do secretly believe I should (and can) just get over it. What do I mean by Champagne Depressives? This friend of mine has said in the past they have suffered depression before so know exactly what it is like. I know that pretty much anyone who has genuinely experienced depression and anxiety would never have told me to pull myself together in a million years, because they truly do know it is the worst thing you can say to someone. So now I'm wondering if my friend is what we might call a Champagne Depressive similar to those described by richope. Based on my experience with my friend, perhaps there are two kinds of us! Or, even worse perhaps, my friend has genuinely experienced depression but still has little sympathy for me. Unlikely but possible I suppose. So the effect of my friend's comment? I cancelled my working day (in which I had a lot to do, but had to reschedule appointments) to avoid facing her, and here I am still avoiding because I feel so upset and unsure what to say, that it's best I stay away. Prior to that I was ok and functioning fine. This is the irony - she probably thought she was helping me, but in reality it caused me to stop functioning. Angry? Yes I guess I am, because here I am hiding away during what should be one of the most productive, positive times of my entire life, because I don't know how to handle comments like that, and feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion have been racing in my head for days. I hope I can work through this and get out there again; I've lived with this condition for a long time, and I know she is wrong. I just have to overcome that tiny part of me from first diagnosis as a teen that believes she is right; you know that part of us that insists we are lazy, unmotivated, manipulative and self-centred when in truth we have an illness, which is not a character flaw and much of the time we are the opposite of lazy and selfish etc. Thanks for letting me raise my voice here, kinda hard to raise it anywhere else at the moment ;)

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