Karen a nurse with bipolar disorder, blogs about how employers must stop discriminating against people with mental health problems.
To begin my story, I need to take you back to when I first started working as a mental health nurse. I absolutely loved nursing, it was all I ever wanted to do. I was good at it too.
But behind closed doors, I was struggling. I was diagnosed with manic depression, which is now known as bipolar disorder.
I always hid my condition at work for fear of losing my job.
I always hid my condition at work for fear of losing my job. I couldn’t afford to. My mental health had already contributed to the breakdown of my marriage and I couldn’t risk losing my career too. I had a child to look after – my lovely son. I had to keep the money coming in, which I did. I worked hard as a nurse for 20 years. Something I’m very proud of.
However, when I saw another nursing position advertised, with part-time hours, I jumped at the chance. I knew it would be better for my health.
I made a promise to myself to be open about my bipolar disorder
I was delighted when my application was successful. This time I made a promise to myself to be open about my bipolar disorder from the start. I figured that with a 20-year proven record behind me in the same role, I had nothing to fear. I was wrong. After completing an online medical, I received a letter to say the job offer had been withdrawn.
They used my mental health problem as a reason to retract the job offer.
I couldn’t believe they were using my mental health problem as a reason to retract the job offer. They were claiming that I wasn’t up to the job; the same job I had been doing for 20 years.
I fought back and took them to a tribunal. But it never went that far. They settled out of court.
The damage had been done though, as I lost my confidence. Even though I got some compensation, I haven’t been able to secure a permanent job since. It’s not just about having a job. It’s about my self-esteem, my income and having social contact – all of those things that improve my mental health. When I’m at home and unemployed with no money, I’ve got nothing but my illness to concentrate on.
I believe every manager should have training in mental health.
However, in writing this, I feel I’ve found some purpose again as I desperately want to protect others. I believe every manager should have training in mental health and every organisation should have policies to support people. If Mind are to achieve this, they need people like you and me to support them.
Awareness around mental health has improved a lot in the last few years, but now we need action. Please take action with me today by making a donation.
Please help Mind fight discrimination in the workplace by donating here.
You can also see our info on mental health at work here.