Mental Health Issues in Business and Work – Declare or not?


1212mentalhealth-RWAs those of you who read my blogs regularly know I have worked while suffering with my mental health problems and left my most recent job due to these problems.   I have also been looking for a new job and I have considered starting a business as an alternative to taking on another job with an employer.

I am however concerned; concerned about the impact my mental health problems will have on my opportunities to gain work or business…You see as we all know there is still so much taboo surrounding mental health, and added to my concerns with that there is the fair concern for employers about my ability to maintain my role with them should they employ me.  Then of course setting up my business brings other concerns, about people ‘not’ wanting to do business with the ‘crazy’ lady.

We all know that often work, jobs, and careers can play a huge role in contributing to mental health issues.

But we cannot and should not use that as an excuse to not work if we feel capable of working.

It has been suggested to me that should I set up my business I should keep it entirely detached from this blog, for example, as potential clients reading about my mental health may be put off working with me.

To be honest, this implication upsets and annoys me – but I also know that the people saying this are right…

Heck, it’s not like we go to job interview and tell them we have BPD is it…?  - oh, wrong actually I DO! Yes, I declare my mental health issues in interviews if it is relevant to do so, and then use my mental health issues to demonstrate strengths and abilities that people without my experiences will be lacking.

Has my openness and forthrightness about my mental health cost me being offered jobs? I wouldn’t know, it’s not exactly like they are going to tell me if they don’t employ me because of that is it now!? If they did, it would be a clear case of discrimination for which they could get in a lot of trouble.

But, it’s not like I can exactly hide it. Sure I could ‘not’ declare it at that early stage, but if I want an employer to be able to support me and possibly make reasonable adjustments to working conditions to meet my needs (as prescribed by the Disability Discrimination Act) they need to know at some point…

So, how should that differ in setting up my own business, if clients want examples of my work, what am I to show them if I cannot show them some of the work used here? Sure, eventually I would have testimonials and client sites to use as examples, but to get those first clients on board they need a demonstration of the kinds of successes I would be ‘promising’ to achieve for them!

So, what do I do from here? I’m not going to stop writing about my BPD, and I’m not going to keep it a secret.

Should I at least not ‘connect’ this blog to my proposed business plans?

But, this blog is a huge success, a demonstration of my skills that will be an integral part of the business I am looking at developing.

And as I have never been anonymous in my writing anyone who cares to could quickly and easily ‘find’ this blog if they wanted to, then what? they withdraw their business from me because they no longer think me capable after reading my blog!?

I’m sorry, but I am VERY capable, I would not take on this activity if I couldn’t do it! So why should my mental health have ANYTHING to do with it?

It’s not right, it’s not fair and it is damn well discriminatory to suggest that I should ‘hide’ my condition in the interests of others being unable to handle the truth!

Yet still, despite how strongly I belive all that I have just said I am extremely disheartened to think that I have no choice but to do just that.

As if I don’t spend enough time wearing a ‘mask’ already…

What would you do?

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18 comments on “Mental Health Issues in Business and Work – Declare or not?

  1. Pingback: HEAD START BEHIND « A SECOND CUP

  2. That’s the exact dilemma I’me facing right now. To disclose or not disclose! Part of me says why the hell should I? It’s a really hard one. Thanks for writing about it.

  3. I don’t have a great answer for you. And,part of that is because you are in England, which is far different in its regulations and attitudes to those of us here in the States.
    But, i can guarantee you that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t here. If you do- there is discrimination (go ahead and prove it)- not everywhere, but given the economy, any excuse will do. If you don’t- and they can pin anything else they dislike upon you, you will be terminated for failure to disclose.
    Now, ain’t that a pretty picture?

    • I agree with RAAckerman completely. I tried for years to hide my illness. When it clearly came out in mania2002 I was from then on treated differently. Not being considered for promotions was a biggie. One guy refused to work with me on a project because of “what he had heard.” He later changed his mind after a coworker friend spoke to him highly about me. Geez. If I tried to hide the disorder I would be hard pressed to find a good excuse for mania2002 and its associated bizarre behavior. I recommend hiding the illness until you need to reveal. If they don’t ask about it you should not disclose. If they ask, well, you have a tough decision.

      • Thanks Jeff. It is terrible that we have to hide things in these ways because of the stigma and discrimination we will face if we are open about it. Basically too many people still imagine mental health problems to mean we are all “dribbling, rocking in a corner, straight-jacket wearing ‘crazies’” :(

  4. It’s tough knowing what to do in work situations. I don’t want to have to hide my issues, I want to fight the taboo and stigma surrounding mental illness. Then again, I don’t want people to look at me differently and I don’t want people to assume I may be less capable just because I have mental health issues. I guess it’s something that you have to decide on- some people are okay with being open about it, some people prefer to hide it. It depends on the person really. x

    • Yeah, it’s such a tough call. Legally we aren’t required to declare, but then if you have occy health assessments for certain jobs it automatically comes up, or there are sickness absence records that require explanation, so its not like you can avoid it in those situations. But it means making a judgemental call about someone you don’t know in order to decide whether to tell them :/ x

  5. We have a similar situation here in New Zealand. There are anti-discrimination laws covering both age and mental health, amongst other things. Heath is seldom an issue for me despite having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder approximately thirty years ago. Heath is generally not an issue until the short-listing process. At age 63 I have long since been eliminated prior to short-listing.
    On the odd occasion I do receive a response it is to say “Sorry, Mr Tyler, we have received more suitable applications than yours.”

    • Yeah the last few jobs I’ve applied for I’ve had the feedback “Your interview was great, but there was someone with more experience” No way of ever knowing if that is the whole truth (as it could be, I don’t have a lot of experience in the roles I’ve been applying for) or whether my mental health (which was mentioned at the interviews) was the real reason! :/

  6. Pingback: government-funded mental health care for BPD in bc, canada « under ground

  7. Pingback: Five good reasons why people don’t talk about their mental health – Guest post by Carolyn | Day in the life of a Busy Gal…

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  9. love your blog-have just discovered it.may I ask what job you had that you had an occupational health screen for?i have an extensive history of mental health,but have been “well” and incident free for a few years and am currently applying to do a mental health nursing degree after volunteering for 18months at a mental health hospital- I felt I had to declare on my application for fear of looking like a liar when occy health interviews me but I am terrified of being rejected when I am very capable and have been consistently well for so long – any advice would be greatly appreciated ! thank you so much

    • Most of the job’s I have had or applied for a within the NHS, either working in laboratories or admin departments in hospitals. The NHS generally do at least a paper-based occupational health screen for most roles, usually it is more about making sure your immunisations are up to date and for manual handling but there are questions about mental health too. I made sure to mention it as I had previously left an NHS job because of the BPD and a breakdown at that time so it would come up when they saw my previous records. I just made sure that I explained that I am now recovered and could provide a letter to that effect from my therapist if required. Because of the nature of what you want to do I would say that you need to declare but like me you need to do it in a way that emphasises that you are not unwell now, having been volunteering for the last 18 months you also have a record from your employers to show you have been able to thrive in that environment which should help. I understand you fear of rejection, but I guess that is just the unfortunate thing we have to face as a possibility and I’m sure that there would be some jobs/situations where I would be more inclined not to declare, but I just know that it would be worse to try and cover it up when I am applying for roles where it would come up on my records very quickly. Best wishes to you, I hope you can put it across in a way that does not lead to being discriminated against for it. x

  10. Research indicates that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, well before adulthood. Three new studies investigate the cognitive, genetic and environmental factors that may contribute to mental health disorders in adolescence. The studies are published in Psychological Science and Clinical Psychological Science, journals of the Association for Psychological Science. ‘

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