STIGMA – IN THE WORKPLACE

STIGMA ~~

Considering so many people have such difficulty opening up to people close to them, it’s no wonder that there are real fears about being stigmatized in the workplace. The cost of mental illness in the workplace is enormous: 30 to 40 % of disability claims are for mental illness, and the losses amount to about $33 billion a year, not including treatment and health care—plus the unknowable costs in lost productivity by those people who suffer in silence.

Employees should think carefully about how much and to whom they are planning to disclose information. If an employee is performing a job well despite a mental illness, then there would be no obligation to disclose his/her condition. In fact, the benefits and risks of disclosing should be carefully weighed before any action is taken.

Sharing information with co-workers is a matter of personal choice. Trust is the issue, and although there is always talk among co-workers, be wise when or if you choose to disclose. This could be detrimental to your future with your company. Really ask yourself – am I going to be farther along by disclosing or just remain silent. Will it hurt or harm? And is it worth it?

*In my personal situation, I never uttered a word fearing possible job loss.  Trust was one reason but stigma was the main issue.

9 thoughts on “STIGMA – IN THE WORKPLACE

  1. TheFeatheredSleep says:

    Deb I agree with you so much on this one. I instinctively knew the people at work can act nice but they could use anything you tell them against you especially if the stigma of mental illness continues which it does and the worst part? You feel SO alone because you can’t talk to anyone about it! When I worked in the city a long time ago, I was pretty young and working my way up the ladder not overly ambitious but wanting to earn more to not live so hard, and everyone seemed to backstab the other for anything they had on them. I would never dream of doing this! No matter what my position was! Women seemed to do it worse than men to other women. I would never hurt another woman because of a need to be successful that is awful! I realized soon enough that I was in the minority and one woman who was about 20 years older than me, decided to pick on me for no reason and eventually she ran me off, and I quit, which may seem defeatist but it was either that or I’d lose my mind. I found out afterward she made a ‘sport’ of running off young women – she had so much hate I was the fifth girl she’d done that with. Many years later when I was immigrating I needed a letter to verify I had worked there and she wrote a really nice letter! I was so amazed! I like to think she’d seen the error of her ways/cruelty but who really knows? When you are mentally ill suffering from some instability then having people act that way can be literally the last and final blow. The truth is that is why I can’t handle working in offices anymore. I would make a LOT more money if I could but at what cost to me? The last office job I had was ironically as a therapist, when I heard what other therapists were saying about one another (women) and about their clients I couldn’t handle it anymore, I’ve never worked in that field again. I like the idea of helping others, but most of the ‘helping’ professions have a mix between good intentioned and controlling evil manipulators, the latter being quite common in my workplace. The hardest part was when my depression was bad I couldn’t say a thing. If someone had cancer they would and everyone would be supportive. I truly think that’s why people get more ill because of the stigma. Hence why I appreciate what you do so much and this is so true what you have said here.

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    • cherished79 says:

      Thanks so much for the comment. I’m happy with my decision not to breathe a word during the time with this company, but so many days when I cried in the bathroom feeling like I was a lost soul, I just wanted someone to put their arms around me. But, I had to return to my desk, with red, swollen eyes, answer phones in a call centre and carry on with my collections position. Miserable and terribly unfair. I’d be riding on the bus home wearing sunglasses on a cloudy winter day so no one would notice the tears. Tough times when you work struggling with depression and I give kudos to anyone who does make it through a day. Hugs forever. Deb

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jellyjennybean says:

    This is exactly why I won’t even consider telling anyone at work. They don’t need to know. It’s my business not theirs. Makes fitting in treatment harder though for sure. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. asummerofnew says:

    Hi, So funny you should post this right now. I’m am going through this very issue at work at the moment. Today I had a very unpleasant chat with my boss about my work performance. It really bothered me because I know my mental health issues are what is negatively affecting my performance and giving my boss the impression that I’m ‘uncommitted’. She kept going on about having ‘a clear direction’ and how I don’t seem to have one for the job, and all I could think of telling her is, I have no direction because I’m living with a mental illness and you have no idea what that is like! I’m going to very carefully ponder the issue of whether to disclose to her my condition over the next few weeks, and seek advice from people like my doctor and my job consultant. I’m afraid it could harm my chances but hopeful it could improve them…its very hard to tell. Thank for your article!

    Liked by 1 person

    • cherished79 says:

      One word: CAUTION. It depends on your supervisor. I discussed this often with my psychiatrist and therapist before finally leaving my job, and they both advised not to disclose. That I agreed with, as I felt that they could have held that against me if there was ever a layoff or a review of my work or daily performance on the phones. Some people still “don’t get” mental illness and depression is still sometimes considered a “flaw” or “weakness in character”.

      I worked in a call centre and had my calls monitored which were graded on a monthly basis, so I had feedback and learned if I failed or passed calls. Each hour we were expected to handle at least 25 calls, and towards the end I was lucky to do 10. I was a mess, and they wondered why I was once an above-average performer to a low performer. I didn’t trust my supervisor, so I kept my mouth shut and never told her I was depressed. Each month that I failed some of my calls and she finding fault and nit-picking, I almost burst into tears in her office and spilled my guts, but instead I would go into the washroom and burst into tears. Not one person in that office knew I had a mental illness, as a lot of them had “loose lips” and I really didn’t trust them either. So after 6 years of working there I couldn’t take it anymore and went on disability and haven’t worked again in over 2 years. I kept a smile on my face (I think I did), but I was dying inside.

      So once again, caution. But for all you know, maybe your boss has a mental illness also, you never know. My advice though, I wouldn’t say a word. I wish you the best; it’s really tough going through this when you have to work all through the day. Keep your chin up, thinking of you. Deb

      Liked by 1 person

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