Mental health discrimination is something I never dreamed of facing, but I am not afraid to talk about my depression

In March 2014, I applied for Cabin Crew with Emirates Airline. I was shortlisted from thousands of people, and battled my way to the final interview. It was the most exhausting week I had experienced in a very long time. After waiting 4 weeks, I received my ‘golden call’ and the recruiter told me that I’d been successful and would be starting with them on July 6. Instantly, I cried with happiness, shaking with excitement and called every number in my phone book, screaming my news! I finally managed to bag my dream job. I remember thinking to myself ‘it’s my time for happiness now, the years of hard work, tears and struggle were actually worth it after all.’

I was isolated and alone, and didn't talk to anyone about my depression

One week after receiving my ‘golden call’, I received extensive medical forms and I was shocked to learn that Emirates does not accept employees with previous depression; unless isolated. I was slightly concerned because I had experienced isolated bouts of depression in 2009 and 2012 due to personal circumstances and traumatic things happening in my life. It was the darkest time of my life. The depression led to anxiety issues and I closed myself off from the world. I was isolated and alone, and didn't talk to anyone about my depression – presumably due to the stigma surrounding it. I went to college/work every day and was always known as the ‘class clown’. I’ve always been very good at making people laugh; little did they know that I was suffering so badly inside. After medical support, I was cleared from the doctor and was ready to carry on with my life again, but this time, with a smile on my face.

I had my dream job taken away from me because I experienced depression

As Emirates had asked for my records I supplied the required report, where my doctor states that I am mentally and physically fit, that I no longer require any medication and that these were isolated cases linked to trauma. One week before my joining date, I received an email from Emirates stating that I had not met their medical conditions and that the job offer had been withdrawn. The single paragraph left me shocked and heartbroken. I had my dream job taken away from me because I experienced depression. Mental health discrimination is illegal in England but Emirates seem to avoid this because they abide by UAE laws.

I initially set up a Facebook Page called Emirates Against Depression to warn other aspiring cabin crew against the unfair treatment by the airline – I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through what I had. I lost hundreds of pounds, turned down other job offers and lost so much more along the way. Within 24 hours, I was contacted by two newspapers; my story was online at The Independent and published the next day. My page was gaining more views, likes and comments from people who were outraged and shocked by my story from all around the world. Within 48 hours, my story reached the BBC and I appeared on television sharing my story, accompanied by Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change.

I had to help others who were going though similar experiences

As my story had gone global, I received an overwhelming response from people all over the world, sharing their personal stories of Emirates, other airlines and even other industries. I was completely overwhelmed how my story had touched so many, and that they were coming to me for advice and support. But I was more shocked at how many people face stigma and discrimination in the workplace because of their mental health problems.

I spent weeks replying to everyone, thanking them for their support but mainly offering advice. The main question I got asked was “What made you stand up to mental health discrimination?” Initially, it was anger, how could I be penalised for having depression? Secondly, I wanted to warn others to prevent this from happening to them. Of course, I was scared when my story was all over the internet and in the newspapers but I felt so passionate about my story – I had to help others who were going though similar experiences.

I am not afraid to talk about my depression

One in five adults experience depression, and that’s only the statistics for the people who speak out about it. Depression has made me a stronger, healthier person and provided me with the skills to empathise with all types of people and to deal with high-pressured situations. It’s changed my life, but for the better. Mental health discrimination is something I never dreamed of facing, but I am not afraid to talk about my depression. To other people who can identify with my story, don’t give up fighting - there is more support than you may think. In five days, my story went global – this shows to me how important this issue is. It also shows that we are not alone. We all know someone who has experienced a mental health problem - ourselves, friends, and family - so take a moment and ask yourself the question ‘Would you accept mental health discrimination directly?’ I don’t think you would. So, let’s continue to raise awareness, to fight against it and make it stop.

 

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Comments

Same boat

Hey I love your blog post. I have been in the same boat with losing jobs in the Middle East due to my depression and eating disorder...both times it happened it actually made my mental health worse!

Thank you

Hello Ellie, I hope that are well. I am truly sorry to hear that you've also been in the same boat as me. I can only imagine that you went through similar things as me. When Emirates discriminated against me, I felt very sad, low and angry. But fortunately, I didn't allow it to affect me to an extreme. It just gave me determination to help others and to speak out. I truly hope that things are more positive for you now and that you are enjoying life. I wish you all the luck in the world. Meg x

Airline

Well done Megan. You have highlighted what goes on behind closed doors. Discrimination is still prevalent in the work place. My job offer was declined due to me taking time off work due to work related stress and bullying. The excuses people make is disgusting. This should not be happening in 2014. Depression is hard enough to deal with let alone employers adding a further blow. I hope that people start taking a stand against these employers, they should not be allowed to use someone's medical history against them. Thankfully I did manage to get another job and I am now looking into furthering myself in my chosen career. There is always hope, so don't let one challenge stop you from beating the next one :)

Thank you

Hello Lisa, I hope you're well. I am so sorry to hear that you've also suffered with MH discrimination - it really is a horrible thing to go through. I do however hope that things are much better for you now. You are right, depression is hard enough to deal with let alone employers adding further stress and upset. It truly needs to stop. I am so happy that you managed to get another job and that you're looking into furthering your chosen career - that is fantastic news. Keep up the hard work. All the best, Meg x

depression

you are so brave megan I love have you as a facebbok friend I suffer depression myself ,my family don't understand .

Thank you

Hello Steve, Thank you so much for your kind message - I appreciate your support. Are you aware of the support groups out there? If you need advice and support there are lots of services available. This link may be very useful for you: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/depression/self-help,-treatment-and-support/#.U85QpONdXKM All the best, Meg

So saddened to hear of Megan

So saddened to hear of Megan's experience but so glad she has become a voice for others with depression...all the best for the future. For future employers, do not write someone off because of their previous mental health issues. Lots of people have depression but still manage to have a successful career. Would you not offer someone a job if they had had a physical illness? No. Then why are people with depression treated so differently?

Thank you

Adele, Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and show me your support. I really agree with the message that have put across: employers need to remember that we all have mental health, as much as we have physical health - if you break a leg and it heals and 2 years later you apply for a new job, would they reject you? Of course they wouldn't. I wish you all the best. Meg

Well done Megan for the top story about depression!

When I read your story Megan. I was inspired about the time you had depression back in 2009 and 2012 and basically I had depression back in the same year as you had depression 2009 and as you have experienced yourself it was 1 of the darkest moments of my life. I believe that no 1 really cared about me cause I did not open myself up and when I was put on an antidepressant. It did me no good at all. My weight ballooned up to a dangerous level and people keep telling me that I needed to lose weight but with these antidepressants! I was not taking much in cause of the tablets were making me feel like a zombie. 2010 was the year when I was taken off the antidepressants and I started to feel less like a zombie and from there on in I started to feel like my normal self again. I lived my life knowing about the condition that I had to live with, when I was diagnosed with 10 years ago this year. I had a short bout of depression earlier on this year but I was put a different set of antidepressants and I started to feel better in myself. I would like to think that your story can inspire other to disclose that mental health issues. Well done again Megan and I wish you all the best for the future.

Thank you

Hello Anthony, Thank you so much for your kind message and sharing your story with me. You sound like a strong, hard working, determined person and that is fantastic. Keep up the hard work, and I truly wish you all of the best. Meg

Depression and anxiety

I always avoid telling employers and certain people about my anxiety in fear of discrimination. It is illegal but they will discriminate. They will just make up another reason not to hire you. Great story x

Well done, Megan. You've been

Well done, Megan. You've been brave and inspirational. Sounds like they missed out on an excellent employee. x

I could have written this article! Depression/Hospitalization

You are truly an inspiration to me. I have lost 2 professional jobs in the last 4 years due to 2 hospitalizations for severe depression/anxiety. They were both in the mental health profession at that. It nearly destroyed me, dealing with the illness and having mental health professionals lack empathy of any sorts and disposing of me as if I were a leper. I would really like to have contact with you re: getting advice, etc. on bringing this to the media's attention. I have sat on this for the last 4 years and felt victimized but I am not a victim, I am a survivor and one who has been through the endless ropes of this system, personally and professionally. I honestly just did not know really where to begin in bringing these 2 companies to light re: their discrimination towards a professional (me) and how to even go about advocating for others who I am sure this has happened to as well here in the Deep South. If there is any way we can email, please let me know. I would truly appreciate your time and any advice and encouragement to take this forward and feel like I can blaze some trails for others who have also been discriminated against as well. Thank you for your courage and speaking of this. It truly got my attention and makes me want to be the advocate that I was trained to be.

Advice

Hello Megan, I have been a part of the MH system here in the U.S. my entire adult life. I am now diagnosed with Schizo Affective Disorder. I also have a Master's in Social Work...and I am preparing to speak out. I know this will draw much criticism, as my family (daughter and son) won't even Talk to me about my experiences. My question to you is...What do you find are the most common questions you get asked about MH? I am seeking an outline of some kind before speaking out...do you have any advice. I would appreciate any advice you can offer.

scared

I have just recently entered into the realm of depression. I am an instructor in nursing and need to be up every day. Recently I was "written up" for not being energetic enough with my students. The school knows my family has been having problems but not about my depression and I am afraid to tell them for fear of losing my job. I am the sole money earner in my family due to my husband's health so I can not afford to lose my job. Does anyone out there have any advice?

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