Stigma of mental health makes finding work in recession more difficult
Posted Thursday 27 August 2009
A shocking 92 per cent of the British public believes that admitting to having a mental illness would damage someone's career .
The three careers most damaged were doctors (56 per cent), emergency services (54 per cent) and teachers (48 per cent). However, only 21 per cent of respondents thought that it would be damaging to the career of an MP, despite it being illegal for someone to work as an MP with a history of mental illness.
The survey commissioned for the anti-stigma campaign Time to Change  also found that as mental illness rises during the recession people may find it more difficult to get jobs if they admitted their mental illness in a job interview.
The study asked more than 2000 people around the UK to imagine that they were interviewing someone for a job, and the interviewee admitted that from time to time they suffered from depression. Despite the respondents considering this person the best candidate for the job, more than half [56 per cent) would not employ them because of their mental illness.
The survey found that of these respondents nearly one in five (17 per cent) would not offer the 'best candidate' the job because they considered that mental illness would make them unreliable, while 10 per cent would worry that if the employee took time off sick, they'd get the blame for employing them. A further 15 per cent worried that they wouldn't work as well as other employees, or that other employees would react negatively towards them, undermining team morale.
Reponses from the survey were also broken down by professions, such as health workers, lawyers and banking. It found that bank workers were the most likely to discriminate against someone with a mental illness. Almost half of respondents (46 per cent) working in this sector were either reluctant to employ someone with a mental illness because they'd be unreliable or worried that they'd get the blame for employing them if they went off sick. This is worrying for members of the banking industry, a sector hit by the recession, when they attempt to get new jobs.
Andy Harley, 37, worked for six years as a business analyst for a bank, until he developed depression and gave up work for a year to get better. He undertook 150 interviews before he could get another job. He said:
My experience of getting a job in the banking sector following my depression backs up the findings of this survey. I admitted to depression on application forms and didn't get interviews despite my experience. My mental illness set off alarms bells. My depression was a major concern in the interviews that I did get, with the interviewers worrying that I wouldn't be reliable or able to cope with stress.
The discrimination in the banking sector is outdated. They saw my illness not me. I'm not foremost a person with a mental illness. They didn't take into account my own personal circumstances, or the fact that I had worked well for six years in a high-pressured environment. Anyone can get ill at any time. I was eventually forced to seek work in another sector entirely.
Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said:
The issue of mental health in the workplace is never more important than in time of recession. We need to be able to have a discussion about mental health problems in the workplace, and to put an end to discriminatory attitudes that prevent capable people from working.
1. All figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2082 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 31st July and 3rd August 2009. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
2. Time to Change is England's most ambitious programme to end the discrimination faced by people with mental health problems, and improve the nation's wellbeing. Mind and Rethink are leading the programme, funded with £16m from the Big Lottery Fund and £4m from Comic Relief, and evaluated by the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London. For further information go to www.time-to-change.org.uk
The Big Lottery Fund's support for Time to Change comes from its £165m Well-being programme. The Big Lottery Fund has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006. Full details of the work of the Big Lottery Fund, its programmes and awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk
Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888 / Out of hours: 07867 500 572
Public Enquiries Line: 08454 102030 / Textphone: 08456 021 659
Comic Relief is committed to supporting people living with mental health problems. The projects Comic Relief funds ensure people with mental health problems get their voices heard in the decisions that affect their lives and to get the help they need to recover. Comic Relief also helps people to promote their rights and reduce the stigma and discrimination they face so that they feel more included in society. The £4 million grant to Time to Change is part of Comic Relief's long standing commitment to this issue. For more information go to www.comicrelief.com