Surveys show that many people affected by mental health conditions are eager to work. Despite of this, rates show that only a fifth of them are working. What gets in the way is discrimination, and fears of being treated unfairly in the job sector.
Let’s talk employment for a second.
It’s one of those things I find extremely difficult. Probably the number 1 thing that scares me the most in life, thus my lack of job experience. The fear of being judged negatively and rejected is always present. Discrimination is another factor.
Let’s get into that.
Fears are getting in the way
I’ve always harboured the fear of not being good enough and that people, employers in particular, would see it. That nagging feeling inside, those toxic self-limiting beliefs that keep telling me that I’m just not cutting it. Usually it’s things such as thinking an employer would never be happy with me and what I do, I’d disappoint them and ultimately myself. Thus, I stayed away. I purposefully chose to depend on others instead because it was easier. It was the option that frightened me the least.
Many people like me fear discrimination in workplaces. The idea of putting yourself out there is unimaginably scary. For me, I’ve obviously never experienced it first-hand, but I know it exists. I’ve heard way too many stories to believe it doesn’t. Being avoidant have simply “protected” me from it- The fear of rejection and judgement kept me out of situations which I considered risky.
It’s no bigger surprise to me to find out that people living with mental health conditions are amongst the least likely of any group with a long-term health condition or disability to:
- find work
- be in a steady, long-term relationship
- live in decent housing
- be socially included in mainstream society.
The employment rates among people who suffer mental illness are sadly extremely low. According to a survey The UK National Labour Force conducted are the rates alarming. Out of the whole adult population are roughly 75% employed. When it comes to people with physical disabilities the figure was around 65% while, for people with severe mental health conditions the figures show a strikingly low 20%. 20%! Another survey showed that as many as 90% of people with severe mental health problems actually want to return to work but feel unable to.
These statistics reflect how wide-spread the discrimination really is. In England alone, one out of three people with mental health issues say that they have been faced with discrimination in form of being dismissed or resigned from their jobs. 40% of people disclosed that they were denied a job due to their condition and about 60% say that they avoid applying for jobs altogether out of fear of being treated unfairly. That’s very much were I fit in myself.
Discrimination at work
So what does it mean to be discriminated against at work? Well, basically it happens when an employee is being treated unfairly due to their disability (or in our case, a mental health disorder). This can have great negative impact on the ill employee. It can create a toxic working environment, affect co-workers and the overall productivity of the organization. The most important aspect to take into account is the recovery of the employee. Discrimination can have catastrophic consequences when it comes to the mental stability and self-esteem of the person in question. That, in itself can lead to further stress and mental health problems.
Conceal or disclose?
This is one of those questions I ask myself a lot. Especially the last couple of months. In a job interview, would I rather reveal my fragile mental state or would I better conceal it while talking to a potential employer? Is there a right or wrong in this context? I really don’t know. As for myself it’d cause me a lot of distress carrying around this secret and spend time making sure I don’t slip up and reveal it by accident. It’s a big stress factor for sure. One I’m not convinced is worth the trouble. But disclosing this in an interview can instead mean that I don’t get the job at all, or that I’m being generally treated unfairly. Gossiping or extra attention is the last thing I’d want in such a situation.
What are your thoughts and ideas on this? Are you working, and if so, does your employer know of any potential trouble you’re facing?