November 28, 2016

Watch Richard's blog about the negative judgements he's faced at work because of his bipolar, and how he wishes people would consider the positive traits that can come out of mental illness:


Hello, my name is Richard, and I’d like to discuss some of the feelings I’ve had, and difficulties in the workplace, with regards to my diagnosis for bipolar disorder. I’d like to preface everything by saying that one of the reasons I’m making this vlog now, and speaking out and feel like I can be completely open about the kind of discrimination, stigma, misconception and suspicion that you experience as a sufferer of this condition, and some of the awkwardness you get, when you’re speaking with colleagues is quite difficult and quite awful to deal with. It does really need to get to a point where we stop looking at mental health difficulties and the risk of psychosis in the way people generally do: they’re afraid to talk about it, they don’t know how to approach it and they don’t know how to speak to you about it – then people become quite concerned after they speak to you about it.

I am a bit ambivalent about this because literally there is a safeguarding issue, that you might become dangerous or people might perceive that you might become dangerous. I know that I never will: if I become psychotic the only person in danger is me, so I have to look after myself and avoid it happening, or take action when it happens. But, my colleagues have become concerned that you might become dangerous and that’s due to the fact that the media generally in this country only highlights cases where people who have psychosis are dangerous to the public, and actually most of us who are at risk of psychosis aren’t really any danger at all, except, as I say, to ourselves – because of the thoughts and feelings you have as a result of being psychotic.

It would be good if we could get to a stage where people have n understanding like I now have through my own psychoeducation – where I can actually manage my condition – but where we can also look at the positives of having a mental health condition like bipolar disorder. One of the things that is very positive about it is, at least in my case, you’re usually a very creative person when you have bipolar disorder, and not a lot of people realise that. So, in terms of my job it means I can create really entertaining and exciting ways of students.

People don’t tend to look at that, people tend to think you’re likely to be unwell, at risk and could become a “lunatic” or an axe murderer at any moment, and that really isn’t the case actually. And that comes down again to misconceptions about mental health, the awkwardness of colleagues who sometimes don’t know how to deal with a person that’s at risk and a general suspicion and discrimination which involves people saying well, its safer for us to assume that this person’s going to be a danger. And that really needs to change because most of us are not, and as I’ve said, there are several real advantages to having somebody work with you who’s had some mental health difficulties. There are some things about people that are prone to them such as increased levels of conscientiousness, incredibly motivated and committed, in my case, that really get missed that you get tarred with that brush.                   

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