I have been working whilst suffering with mental health difficulties for the past 7 years. I have experienced employers who understand mental health in all it’s forms, and I have worked for those who have no clue as to what mental health is and consider you a weak employee who cannot handle the working world.
I have been unfairly dismissed from a role before when they discovered I suffered with depression. I was pulled into the office on a Monday morning, and told in no uncertain terms that I was no longer required ‘due to my ill health’. They told me ‘we don’t believe you can cope in an office environment’ and that ‘I might burst into tears on the phone with a client’.
Having said this, I have had great experiences with other managers. They have understood my situation and made adjustments to improve my ability to get to work whilst keeping it stress free.
For me, the difficulty is when to tell your employer. When is the right time? Do you tell them right from the get go, or do you wait and see if things get really bad to a point where you have to tell them? In my last job I chose the latter; I waited, and I waited, until eventually my depression took control and I was forced to tell work because I couldn’t show up for my shifts.
The next issue after when to tell, is who to tell, because who to tell depends on the reaction you will get; pick someone who has experience of mental health issues and you’re in luck, if they don’t then there’s a chance that they just won’t understand, because they do not have a deep understanding of how these issues can affect your working life.
Who to tell is perhaps the biggest issue. However I can tell you it is purely based on luck as to whether you get someone who really truly understands what you are going through or not. Without discussing our mental health at work, we do not know who has suffered and who has not, and therefore who to turn to.
We therefore need to work on ending the stigma that surrounds mental health, so that we can talk more openly about our personal lives in a working environment. Mental health should not be such a taboo subject in a country where a quarter of the population will suffer a mental health issue at some point in their lives.