“When speaking to my friends and others about their own mental health, there is a huge fear that their employer might find out about them taking medication, or having therapy could expose them as weak and cause them to be sacked or treated differently in the workplace.”
The extra stress and anxiety this causes an individual trying to hide their struggle with a mental health condition, while trying to recover, manage things and not allow it to affect work, can be huge. The people I’ve spoken to in this situation are often genuinely terrified and the suggestion of speaking out about it is absolutely out of the question, which is a pretty worrying situation for someone to be in.
I’ve been both lucky and unlucky with work. My mental illnesses and disabilities have caused work to be pretty problematic for me. They’ve affected my performance and caused those around me to become irritated and question my abilities. This really forced me to share my situation and what I was dealing with behind the scenes with my employer. Thankfully there was understanding and concern for my wellbeing greeting me in the meeting room.
On the other hand, I have had two very different reactions when I decided to disclose my illnesses and disabilities during the recruitment process:
“The first employer felt I was too much of a risk to trust with projects and felt I wouldn’t handle the stress, while the second was very understanding and gave me the job.”
Sadly, I didn’t last in that position, however, they were extremely helpful, understanding and ensured that I was supported fully, even after only working four days in the job.
During my time working, I was often late, slower doing tasks than people expected, often needing to take breaks, take time to attend appointments or take days off entirely. It’s pretty clear that an office job probably isn’t for me, but it’s hard enough to get a job without limiting the kind of job you can have, which simply causes more stress.
The truth of it is, employers need and really want to stay on the right side of the law that protects workers - and that includes people with mental illness. The likelihood is that most employers respect and value their workers and are ready to support them in any way they can.
“If you are struggling at work, then I think it’s important to have a conversation with your employer so you can get any support you may need.”
I think it’s also important to know your rights, so you can stand up for yourself in the rare event that you are discriminated against. Luckily there are a number or charities that offer advice and support in talking about mental health in the workplace, or your rights.