1 in 4 people suffers from a mental illness so there is a high chance you already have staff working for you who experience some type of mental illness or distress. If you are a good employer you will know who those staff members are already (that is unless they are unaware that they suffer from a mental illness, and there a plenty of people out there like that) because you will have developed a culture of acceptance and understanding in your workplace. If you don’t then you need to sort your shit out. It is no longer acceptable to be an ignorant employer when it comes to mental health.
I can’t speak specifically for everyone who sufferers from a mental illness about all the great attributes we have and why you should hire us. That would be like saying you should hire women because they are all great bakers and make awesome morning teas. That is just not true. Although I do make an amazing date scone, and I am a woman. Just saying.
So here is why you should not be afraid to hire me with my mental illness:
I am incredibly bright and creative. I kid you not. When everyone else is sitting around scratching their heads saying it can’t be done…I’ll be the one handing you a solution. I just view the world differently to people.
I have a high level of emotional intelligence of my own emotions, and those of others. Why? I have spent a lot of time with psychologists doing exercises. This has helped me hone my skills in this area. Plus I have always been very attuned to how people are thinking.
I come with a huge tool-box of coping skills. As I said before I have really clocked up my hours in therapy. Therapy is not a place where you just get to talk about shit and have someone reply “…and how did that make you feel?” If you want to get better, you have got to work on it. Ever heard of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy? This is the kind of stuff I am training my brain in. Which means I am more resilient. I am also able to help other staff members cope better with their issues using these same techniques.
My work/life boundaries are pretty clear. They have to be. That is how I stay well. As an employer you want an employee who has good boundaries so they don’t burn out. I have burned out before – it’s not pretty. It wastes my time and your time. I won’t be doing that. But what I will do is manage my time effectively at work not mucking about so I have to take extra work home that I should have done at work.
I am really accepting of others and tolerant. I practise what I preach. If I want people to be accepting of me than I need to be of them.
You want to hire me because I already know about my illness. This is much better than me walking around with my head stuck in the sand pretending I am ok. Remember if you hire a large amount of staff then you already have people working for you with a mental illness. That is a fact.
Yes, I sometimes get sick. But we all do, and when I am at work I get through twice the amount that others do.
Remember for your employees to feel comfortable in the workplace it needs to be an actual reflection of society.
So the next time you have a ‘me’ in your interview. Instead of freaking out and giving us the old – sorry we just don’t think you are a right fit for this company. Take the time to find out more about the person who is sitting in front of you. We would appreciate the opportunity to show you how freaking awesome we are.
Not sure what questions you should ask? Here are a few to get you started…
How do you manage your illness in the workplace?
Can you tell us about a workplace that was supportive of you and your illness? What did they do that helped you?
We know that a mental illness doesn’t define who you are. But we also know you will have developed some really great coping strategies can you tell us about them?
If I got asked anything along the lines of these questions in an interview I would be like…’Wow these guys really get it!’ I would want to come and work for you, and then do you know what you would get? An extremely loyal employee who works their butt off. You want one of those, don’t you?
By the way, I am not in the job market. I have an employer who saw how kick-arse I was in another job and head-hunted me. He was totally aware of my illness and one of my jobs is to support all staff and help our company to understand how to best support and work alongside all of our diverse employees.