On Friday I overheard a conversation that made me shudder. I was meeting some friends at a local bar, and sat on the neighbouring table were two women chatting about a colleague.
If John knew that she had depression then I doubt he would’ve given her the job in the first place. She should’ve mentioned it in her interview.
I promptly moved tables to save myself from getting arrested.
To be fair to the women, I don’t know the back story and to a certain extent I can understand their point of view. Ideally no employer wants a member of staff to be off work for extended periods of time. It puts more pressure on the rest of the team and the business suffers. However, to define someone purely on one aspect of their person is ludicrous. You should be hired based on your skills and ability to do the job, not by your personal circumstances.
What about the following:
Tbh if we would’ve know that he’s prone to migraines then we wouldn’t have hired him
We don’t give people jobs who have time off work because their child is ill
She’s had problems with her back and has been signed off for three weeks. This is unacceptable.
Ridiculous statements wouldn’t you agree? People get ill sometimes and need time off work, it’s a fact of life. (Unless you’re Superman… but even he must call in sick now and again with kryptonitous.)
So why is mental health different? Why is it always the MASSIVE RED FLAG? It’s no wonder that those who do suffer keep it locked in the cupboard with the other skeletons. Mine is starting to get quite crowded actually.. what with my anxiety, the Kit Harrington obsession and my secret love of WWE wrestling (I know it’s fake, but I can’t help myself!)
By degrees, mental health is now legally accepted in the workplace and the relevant support is given. Some companies are much more switched on than others. However, the stigma is still very much a part of society. I hear it slip out in conversations all the time. I was talking to an old friend recently who is going through a hard time. When I asked if he wanted to talk about it, he seemed disgusted – oh no, I don’t have what you have. I’ll be fine. – The idea of being associated with mental illness in any way seems to repulse a lot of people… which baffles me because it’s normal! Everybody feels anxious at some point in their lives, everybody feels sad or lost.. why is this so embarrassing? It’s human, not weakness.
Don’t get me wrong, attitudes have improved, but not enough. Certainly not enough to satisfy me.
Ironically for the majority of suffers, their condition does not affect their day job any more than it would if they had a cold or stomach bug. Like a bug, mental illness is something that flares up now and again. It just needs to take its course and with rest and the right medicine the person will return to good health. Surely if you value said member of staff, you would support them? Support rather than judgement will help them regain full strength and return to work sooner.
Friday’s conversation made me think about my own choices, particularly with regards to my blog and other articles. If a potential employer Googles me, it wouldn’t take them long to discover my experiences. Will this prevent me from succeeding in life? Will I be turned down for opportunities due to concerns about my health? I honestly don’t know.
If you look at my attendance records for the last two years they’d confirm that I very rarely have time off work. In fact, I think I’ve had three days as a direct result of anxiety. Certainly not excessive. BUT – how can I convey that to employer? Or how can I assure them that I manage my condition very well and it doesn’t affect my work? Short answer – I can’t.
Instead I have to hope that they will have the foresight to look the individual, not the stigma.
The truth is, I don’t regret starting this blog. I write because I’m not ashamed of my anxiety, I shouldn’t have to be. It doesn’t define who I am, it’s just a part of my DNA and I want to help others realise that they’re NOT alone. Mental illness can be managed and it’s a lot more common than you think.
My dream is that one day a panic attack will be grouped in the same category as a sneeze or a coughing fit.. annoying, but not a big deal.
I can only hope.
PS – please make sure that you vote on the 7th May, particularly if you’re under thirty. Mental health is finally starting to appear on the radar and it’s important to make your voice heard.