January 18, 2012

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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