A few weeks ago I shared with my friends, family and the online community my new role as a Community Correspondent with Partners for Mental Health. I received lots of positive feedback and a great welcome from the staff and other volunteers.
I did however receive one bit of criticism that has stuck with me and I knew I needed to write about it. A friend asked me:
“Are you at all worried about potential employers finding your blog?”
This question surprised me as it was something that I hadn’t considered. I love writing my blog. I’m passionate about mental health awareness, and being open about my own struggles with anxiety and depression has been an integral part of my ability to manage my life. It has also created the opportunity for me connect with like minded people across the world.
I have been so proud of how far I’ve come and my new position with Partners for Mental Health that this question of potential employers seeing my blog as a negative, as a reason not to consider me for a job, took some serious wind out of my sails.
My gut reaction to this question was “No! That’s discrimination! I wouldn’t want to work for a company that didn’t support the mental well-being of their employees.” But the reality is that a lot of companies and hiring managers likely see someone with a mental illness as a liability, as unstable, and someone who would cost them time and money. It could very well have already happened that an employer has found my Twitter account and the link to this blog and immediately discounted me for the position despite my credentials and abilities.
After spending some time ruminating on this issue, I realized that the skills I’ve developed in managing my mental illness and the job skills that most employers seek in their employees are actually positively correlated.
Here are some common soft job skills that employers seek in their employees:
Communication skills, analytical and research skills, flexibility, adaptability, managing multiple priorities, interpersonal abilities, planning and organizing, problem solving, creativity, teamwork, honesty and integrity, dedication and tenacity, perseverance, dependability, positive attitude, self-confidence, self-motivated, and a willingness to learn and improve.
Someone who is open about their mental illness has gone through a process of research and communication with family, friends and health professionals to find the root of their issues, to problem solve and adapt to find success and to persevere in life despite their disability.
They are honest and dedicated to managing their mental health on a daily basis, and are creative in finding methods that work for them. They are strong, open-minded, and self-motivated. They have learnt to be both organized and flexible in order to manage relationships, go to school, work, raise children, and help others to succeed in the face of diversity.
Someone who is open about their mental illness and has learnt to manage it is extremely brave, positive, self-aware, and on a constant mission of self-improvement.
Employers- you’d be a fool not to want someone with these skills on your team.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, the reality is that you already work with and have already hired individuals suffering from mental illness- most of whom are not open and have not sought out treatment. Therefore, you should not avoid hiring someone who is open about their mental illness- you should think “This is someone who I want on my team. This is someone who has proven themselves.”
My hope is that companies across Canada will join the Not Myself Today at Work campaign beginning on May 9th initiated by Partners for Mental Health to send a public message that they reject the stigma surrounding mental illness and to show that their organization prioritizes employee mental health.