wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Mental health – a dirty word to employers?

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.

Categories: Anxiety

Tags: , ,

9 replies

  1. I think this is a really great post, and so true, I hate that there is so much stigma around mental illness, I wish people would stop being so ignorant and actually educate them selves on something before judging someone.
    I think its really great that you talk about your mental illness on your blog its helpful to so many other people too, and is definitely not something to be ashamed of. xx


  2. We’ll said Claire. FYI, if you go onto the sane website and make a donation you can get a “stop mental health stigma” wristband. It’s amazing how many people I’ve had meaningful conversations with about mine. Just remember 1 in 4 will suffer from mental illness, plus all the others who suffer in silence. I’ve just been told that it’s going to take 2 months to get some talking therapy on the NHS. I realise that all the parties are putting it on the agenda, but I’m not sure yet which is best. Or even has some concrete proposals 😉

  3. Reblogged this on oursocialanxietygroup and commented:
    See, this is exactly what I’m talking about!!

  4. Just came across this. It may be known by many, but I hadn’t seen it and it seems to cover a whole load of issues

  5. Here in Austria things are moving too slow for my liking too. Can you believe that in all of Austria there is for example only 1 centrum where Borderliner’s can go and get help?!?! I mean we are a small country sure and we have “no money ” ( except 30 something millions of euros for a football stadium and the banks that went bankrupt….. ) but the point is people (which politicians are although it’s hard to believe sometimes ) don’t seem to have it at their radar in the first place. Physical health sure but mental health seems to be on one level with stuff like “Wellness ” or “Cosmetics ” which is ridiculous cause 1) mind and body work together and 2) just because it’s not “visible ” in a way physical stuff is it doesn’t mean we should ignore or neglect it.

    I do understand it is hard for people who never experienced mental illness or are familiar with it but tell me why there are dozens of flyers, info days, seminars, courses and more on a healthy diet or which kind of sport fits your lifestyle best but if somebody wants to know more about anxiety disorder or depression or such, they have to search or wait for ages until they stumble over something useful. I don’t blame someone not being directly or indirectly affected by mental illnesses, to not go to such lengths. I do blame those people that are in positions where they could act to improve awareness, which aren’t. We shouldn’t have to fight and explain over and over again. My dream is that one day I won’t have to defend myself when someone asks me why I couldn’t attend a course and I say: “I had a panic attack, I just couldn’t go into a room full of people “, instead of a raised eyebrow they will go: ” Ah yeah had that last friday, my headache was so bad I just couldn’t move. “.

    PS: I’m running for what’s called StrV in Austria ( the guys representing the students ) in my field of study this semester and one thing that’s definitely a goal is raise the awareness and access to information about mental illnesses cause why shouldn’t we have the same right to study in a way that supports us as anyone else with physical illnesses, habdicaps etc.

  6. Mental health is indeed a dirty word(s) to employers, along with words like ‘holiday’ and ‘fun’ and ‘life’. How ironic it is that studies have shown the ideal personality traits to have in the corporate world at least are psychopathy and sociopathy.

    One thing to thank the internet for is that it’s made working from home and doing your own thing a lot more accessible for those of us whose greatest struggle is often being decent people trying to function in an unjust world.

  7. Yes. Yes. Yes! Everything in this post struck a chord with me. I blog about my anxiety and depression and I’ve been told by my own family to stop because no one will hire me if they see what I write. What they don’t see is that I write to end the stigma and hope that someday mental illness will be treated like physical illness. Fantastic post!!

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