August 10, 2012

Photo of a sunriseI am a health professional working in a large organisation. I decided to be more open about my diagnosis of Bipolar after finally coming to accept my diagnosis after many years. I had discussed this fully with my psychotherapist and we agreed that by being more open and honest with more colleagues in work would be helpful. I would see that they did not treat me differently so I would not continue to stigmatise myself.

We could also see that it would also be a huge relief for me to not have to hide part of myself from others. I would no longer need to put on my mask - something that was exhausting. I had also become aware of The Time to Change Campaign.

After disclosing more widely in work, I felt a sense of relief and pride. There was a resulting change in me that was positive and I felt the best I had done for many years. Unfortunately a small minority of my colleagues were surprised by my openness. They perceived this positive change in me as being a sign that I was becoming unwell.

My role and responsibilities were taken away from me on the basis of these subjective opinions

They felt unable to discuss their concerns directly with me ("for fear of upsetting me"), and continued to look for 'evidence' to support their (genuine) concerns. They took these concerns to management. I was later called to management, told that there had been concerns raised but was refused the opportunity to address them (presumably because they had concluded I was definitely unwell). My role and responsibilities were taken away from me on the basis of these subjective opinions, observations and concerns.

My partner of 13 years, my CPN, Psychotherapist, Psychiatrist and Occupational Health Consultant all agreed that I was not unwell throughout this time. However, by the time that this was established and communicated, the damage had been done.

It has since been accepted that discrimination had taken place

Due to the intensity of the stress and my frustrations at trying to prove I was not unwell, I experienced reactive depression caused directly by this situation. It has since been accepted that discrimination had taken place. Although this was not intentional, the damage this has caused to me and my well being has been immense.

I would strongly encourage others who wish to be more open to their employer and colleagues about their own mental health to be careful about how they go about it. I am not saying don't disclose but do not assume that others are as well informed about mental health as yourself.

in 2012 there is still much ignorance about mental health in society

Although still ongoing even after 8 months, I am hopeful that eventually this situation will be completely resolved and I will be able to look back on this scenario positively somehow. My story highlights that in 2012 there is still much ignorance about mental health in society in general and even health professionals. It is this ignorance that can lead to stigma and discrimination and consequently a lot of unnecessary pain for all parties involved.

It's not just about talking more openly about mental health, it’s about being more informed and having a better understanding about mental health too.

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