Thursday, 22 February 2018

Having A Mental Illness Doesn’t Mean I’m Unemployable

As I approach my last few weeks at university the job hunt has well and truly begun. Perfecting my CV and head hunting anyone I physically can on LinkedIn, it is all becoming very real! 

One thing that is always playing on my mind, is the fact that the employers may look at my volunteer work with mental health charities and read my blog, and automatically think that I am ‘unfit to work'. Even though, under the Equality Act 2010 it states, that it is against the law for employers to discriminate against you, if you have a disability/mental illness. 

So, to any future employers reading this post, these following statements have either been said to me, or to others. This is why I am NOT unfit to work. If you are currently looking through people's job applications and wondering if they are suitable for the job, due to having a mental illness, please take the following into consideration.

“You won’t get out of bed for work, because you are always depressed and stay in bed”

Just because I have had the odd day off of university due to anxiety and depression taking over, this does not mean I am not able to get out of bed and go to work. You have had a day off for a simple cold or flu, does that mean you are going to have a day off everyday? No! So, why do people think it is so different for people who have a mental illness? Is it because you cannot always see the physical symptoms of our illness, because we usually hide behind a smile? Or, is it because there is still so much stigma? I will let you decide. 

“You won’t be able to handle the work load and stress” 

Anyone, regardless of their mental health being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, is going to get stressed. We are all still human! Believe me, I have been under A LOT of stress and pressure, even when my mental health has been at its worst! But, surely someone who can still overcome all of the stress and pressure whilst having a mental illness, is just as capable, if not more capable of doing a good job than anyone else! We are able to complete the work, whilst having dark thoughts telling us we’re not good enough, or anxiety ridden nights. Give us a chance! 

“You are letting your mental illness hold you back” 

Yes, this may be the truth sometimes, but that does not mean I have chucked my whole life away because of my unwell brain. If anything, sharing my story and speaking so openly about my mental health, has opened doors for me that would usually be closed! I am able to say that I have worked with Samaritans on a direct mail campaign. I have been featured in the Guardian and on BBC Newsbeat. I have filmed a documentary with the BBC, I have set up my own project and been funded by O2, and I have a lot more plans for the future!

By doing all of this, I have built contacts, seen first hand how campaigns are put together and strategically planned, I have shown my abilities to publicly speak, despite having social anxiety. I have also shown my creativity and have created a brand for myself. 

Employers need to stop having this warped view of people’s capabilities when they have a mental illness. If someone applies for a job and they say they have a mental illness, do not dismiss them. By them applying for the job, they have shown that they are capable and want to succeed in life. If someone felt that their mental illness would get in the way of a job, they would not apply for it in the first place. 

I asked on Twitter, how many people felt they were unable to disclose that they had a mental illness when applying for jobs, due to the fear of being rejected. Out of 55 people, 84% said yes! This proves that this stigma is definitely still there to some extent. 

Why should we feel afraid to show who we truly are? Having a mental illness has not held me back at all. I have achieved a lot in just the last year alone. So please, when you’re employing people, do not dismiss them when they disclose an illness. Do not label us as “the one who has... x,y,z” like we are the next episode of Friends. 

Give us a chance to show you what we are capable of, despite our brains telling us that we are not good enough! Having a job or even just being accepted for an interview, can be a big achievement for anyone. It may even be that little glimmer of hope, that someone with a mental illness needs. I am in no way saying that people with illnesses deserve some kind of special treatment, but I am fed up of feeling like I have to be someone else, in order to succeed! 

What are your views on this?
Have you ever felt like you have been looked down on, or rejected due to disclosing a mental illness? 

This is not a collaboration or sponsored post with Time to Change, but I thought it would be fitting to add the 'Employer Pledge' at the end of this post, if you and your company want to get involved!