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Saturday, August 11, 2012

stigma on #mentalhealth patients in the workplace

I was reading a Time to Change article about stigma revolving around revealing one's mental ill-health at work: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/blog/disclosing-mental-illness-bipolar-at-work

It is real, this stigma. There are people out there who think that I should not be taking care of rescue cats and running a cat rescue group because I have severe clinical depression. A minor few of the stakeholders, that is, the concerned public that knows about our work.

It extends even further. I am not likely to secure a job with another organisation than my own because I am mentally disabled. Never mind I am shit-hot good at whatever I do embark on (that's what people said). So to prevent stress on hiring managers on how to handle a person like me, I should do no-brainers like reception or administrative work perhaps. Only, I am over-qualified to do them and I won't get hired. So, no, I am not high on chances in getting a job outside of freelancing and my volunteer work (which pays me a small honorarium).

If I were to get a job (like my teaching stint in Indonesia) even after revealing my mental health status, I am a source of stress to the leaders and co-workers because I will often get panic attacks or psychosomatic illnesses. Who on earth wants to give so much medical leave to an employee? Eventually, I will be deemed un-useful and terminated.

Ways out of this stigma in the workplace? Organisations must understand the common mental illnesses well. They need to make accomodations for us, without undermining our actual ability to do the job. Kind of impossible for now, but perhaps someone will write a good policy paper on this for organisations to follow.

Another way is to go entrepreneurial. My choice of route. Navigate your business according to your own health and pace. Make your organisation a success, heck, a force to be reckoned with in your industry. And work your way towards getting your income from your venture. Disclose your mental illness, and with shit-hot work done by your hand to show, no stigma for you. Or at least, only from a few; but the minority tail cannot wag the majority dog. So, be shit-hot!

The entrepreneurial route is not easy to take of course. If you can still work, disclose your mental illness only to those you trust. So that at least someone at work understands when a symptom shows up. Play your office politics well in this scenario, so no one can use your mental illness against you. This is the conservative route to avoid being stigmatised too much.

Not a mental health sufferer? Please read up on common mental health problems like generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), clinical depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia. And do me a favour: after you Google these and find statistics on how prevalent these disorders are, forward them to your colleagues. There needs to be a revolution on mental illness education in the workplace, so oddballs like us can be less stigmatised by the people we work with.

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