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For people with mental health conditions, how much self-disclosure is too much?
A report released in 2006 considered the discussion of one’s mental health issues in a graduate school application to be the “kiss of death.” Disclosing personal mental health issues may allude to emotional instability or evidence of an untreated illness, harming an applicant’s chance at being admitted to their desired program.
What’s the alternative? Applicants avoid mentioning mental health conditions, forfeiting their ability to receive appropriate consideration.
The topic remains contested almost two decades later, and 200 million annual workdays are lost to mental health conditions. The employment of individuals who suffer from mental disabilities is a dynamic process that involves the intersection between the nature and demands of the job and the competencies and needs of the worker.
Local business owner of Cedar Planters, Haley Besworth, sat down to reflect on her own experience. Besworth explains that owning a business has shaped her opinion on mental illness and its barriers to the labour industry: “I strive to create a safe workplace that does not stigmatize mental illness and to create safe spaces for information to be disclosed at the employee’s discretion.”
A study conducted in 2014 examining the challenges that employers face in hiring workers with mental illness (WWMI) showed that 85 percent of employers agreed that their institution should hire WWMI. However, there were legitimate barriers to doing so, stemming from a lack of training and education required to support them and a lack of access to resources needed to address mental health issues.
Besworth agreed that while the safety and well-being of her employees were a priority, it would be naive to assume that for a small business, these measures were easy. She explained that there are financial and production-based challenges that small businesses can face when employing individuals with mental illness.
Her company has had to navigate employee absence, establish appropriate boundaries of how much she can help before professional help needs to be consulted, and more. Besworth has even had to provide short-term housing and reach out to community mental health and social work professionals to support employees.
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Still, discussions regarding stigma in the workplace and a generational shift in priorities have inspired promising interventions to overcome exclusionary practices. For example, anti-stigma campaigns focused on influencing public attitudes through awareness and education and constitutional challenges to structural discrimination by staging vocal protests and petitions.
Besworth acknowledged that strategies must be implemented to provide more affordable access to health benefits, such as medication and therapy. “I also wonder, how much support are other companies providing to their employees when it comes to these overwhelming challenges; is this the norm?”
Providing employees with adequate support has been shown to increase employee engagement and future employee recruitment and retention, according to Harvard Business Review. While the cost of education programs for employers and health plans for employees may seem steep, the $16.8 billion lost in employee productivity annually should indicate that these investments will save employers and the community from costly setbacks in the future.
Mental health is becoming a frontier for change. Companies must update outdated practices in an era where many industries suffer from labor shortages.
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Image Source : www.psychologytoday.com