by Warren Heggarty
The more people who feel confident enough to disclose, the easier it will become for others to gain employment because it will normalise the idea of people with mental illness being in paid, open employment.
Why do people choose NOT to disclose?
The main reason is the fear that if we tell someone we won’t get the job, or they will be treated differently to other employees. In other words, discrimination, which is illegal.
On the other hand, unless there is a safety issue (see below) there is no requirement to disclose such personal details. If we are at a stage in our recovery journey where we are confident that we are able to stay on top of any mental health issues, we might not consider it to be any of our employer’s business.
Why do people choose to disclose?
We prefer to be open about our experience and are confident enough to talk about it.
We have already started work and have demonstrated we can do the job but want to discuss how we will manage in the event of becoming unwell.
We are experiencing health problems
The work has become stressful as a result of changes like moving offices, or changes to the way things are done
For example, my workplace once moved from the first floor to the tenth. Knowing my history of panic attacks and problems with elevators and heights, I disclosed this to my employer. As it turned out, I did not experience any serious disruption.
We only need to disclose our mental health issues if it affects our ability to do our job. Our disclosure makes it possible for our employer to understand what support we need.
When MUST I disclose?
Your mental health is your business, however, there are a number of circumstances where it would be impracticable not to disclose something about your mental health issues:
• Where there is a safety issue
• If you need adjustments put in place to help you do the job
• In order that your employer knows what to do if you become unwell
According to Social Firms Australia Ltd’s guide ‘Disclosure of a mental illness in the workplace’ you must tell your employer some things about your mental health issues if there could be a risk to someone’s safety.
For example, if you are taking a medication that impairs your ability to operate machinery safely. You don’t need to tell the employer everything about your mental health issues, just enough for them to know what to do to keep the workplace safe for you, your workmates and the public.
Social Firms gives a couple of examples:
“I have a medical condition which means I sometimes forget things. It helps me if you write down important information”
And one that I have had to use myself:
“I can become paranoid at times and need to ‘reality check’ with my co-workers to keep myself focused on the job.”