The Do’s and Don’ts of Employing Someone with Mental Illness.

It’s been a while since I posted. While I always had the blog in my mind, unfortunately my life just got too busy and for personal and health reasons I had to step back from my writing for a period of time.

I’ve had some very interesting experiences with work over the past twelve months with two very contrasting workplaces. On the one hand, I had an employer take me back on as a freelancer after I took 20 weeks off while in hospital and on the other hand an employer fired me without providing notice or a reason (however, I’m sure that reason is related to a stigma towards mental health).

Based on my two very different experiences, I’ve compiled a list of the do’s and don’ts when employing someone with a mental illness. Every point on this list is taken from real life experience and written from my point of view.

Taking time off work

Do

Allow me to take a couple of weeks off work if I say I’m feeling a little bit stressed. When do I come back after two weeks I’ll be fighting fit again and allowing me to take time off will prevent things from escalating.

Don’t

Tell me that you’re glad I’m ‘finally admitting’ that I’m not ok. I was ok before, now I’m not. Depression isn’t one of those things that is consistent, it comes in waves, and you’re really not helping.

Do

Welcome me back to work after 20 weeks off and allow me to decide when I need time off. It really helps me when I feel supported.

Don’t

Force me to take a week off based on your own assumptions. Only I know how I’m feeling. Not even my psychiatrist knows how I’m feeling. He can only make conclusions based on what he sees and I tell him and he has a medical degree, you don’t.

Talking to other colleagues

Do

Tell the other schedule planner that I’m taking some time off for stress. It means that she’ll understand when I have to decline a shift because I’m finding it too much at the moment.

Don’t

Tell my coworkers that you think I’m incapable because I have depression behind my back. That’s crossing a line and you should know that.

Giving feedback

Do

Tell me that if you had have known how this would effect me you would have made different arrangements to support me. Do tell me that you wouldn’t have hired me if you didn’t think I wouldn’t be good at my job.

Don’t

Tell me that you knew I was going to cry. Again, that’s not helpful.

Do

Tell me what I’m doing right and give me areas to improve on and suggestions on how I can learn what I need to improve.

Don’t

Keep repeating over and over that you are going to give me criticism and draw it out. Just tell me what you want to say.

Communicating

Do

Ask me how I’m doing and tell me I’m looking really well. It really helps me feel better and reminds me how much I’ve improved.

Don’t

Tell me you know that my headaches are caused by my depression because you did some first aid classes. They’re unrelated, my headaches are caused by sinus infections. One of my psychiatrists even sent me to an ENT. If my psychiatrist isn’t linking my headaches to depression, then you shouldn’t be either.

Do

Send me emails asking if I’m ok to take on more work. Do ask me if you can rely on me for a shift. It shows that you trust me to make my own decisions about when I can work.

Don’t

Tell me to take a rest when I first arrive at work. I haven’t even started work yet, I don’t need a rest.

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