Mental Illness And The Workplace

I was walking to my office the other day and a guy who works there looks at me and says ,   “What’s the matter Sir, are you sick?”
“No, why? I asked.
“Well you look and walk kinda loose…loose” he said.
Now I obviously couldn’t tell him that the reason I walked liked that is because I was depressed and was on medication. It just wouldn’t have felt right.
But it got me thinking. Is it appropriate to discuss your mental illness at work?
The answer depends upon your organisation’s work culture and the nature of your relationships with your boss and co-workers. Some people may be understanding and supportive of your disclosure, while others may not be. Things especially get tricky with a diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder because people may think that you’e just using your illness as an excuse to be lazy, or to get more time off.
Depression, especially. can directly interfere with work performance. It can lead to a lack of motivation and disturbed decision-making. If your job involves meeting lots of people or motivating others then it can be a problem, because then all you might really feel like doing is getting under your blanket and going off to sleep.
If you find that your mental illness is interfering with your ability to work then seek help from a mental health professional.With the right medication and counselling you can get back to feeling normal and acting like your best self in a short span of time. Your psychiatrist might also provide you with helpful advice regarding how to disclose details of your diagnosis with those at work, should you decide to do so..
I personally feel more comfortable revealing my struggles with mental illness only with an inner circle of close friends and family. It’s not so much a question of stigma as much as my need for others to give me a fair chance. I don’t like being treated like a patient. I also feel that opening up about your illness to others is a good idea only after you’ve achieved some degree of personal victory in the area.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that anyone should lie about their illness. If your job requires you to disclose any history of mental illness then by all means do so, it’s probably for your own good .If you’re worried that it might cost you the job then perhaps you can talk to your psychiatrist and discuss the possibility of him providing you with a fitness certificate that you can share with the relevant authorities .
There’s still a tremendous need for change in the way that we Indian’s think about mental illness. I’m not ashamed of my illness, I’m a medical professional who knows that there is no reason to be, but not many patients feel this way. There is still a need for secrecy, for keeping things under wraps, and I wish this would change soon.
In the future, If someone were to ask me about why I walk so slowly, I’d like to be able to smile and say “ Oh it’s just a touch of depression…it’ll be OK soon” before walking happily into my office.


Author: Dr.Gautam Babu

I'm a physician from India with a special interest in the topic of Holistic Health and Wellness.

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