New Thoughts on Mental Health in the Work Place
Over the past few months, I have learned how horrible and devastating it can be for it to get around your place of employment that you are struggling with mental illness and/or addiction. I have never, ever had the stigma be this bad before. I have been out of work on a psychiatric medical leave since 3/13/17 and I am out of work until further notice.
After I told my immediate supervisor what was going on, regarding my mental health, the next thing I knew it was all over my company that I was out of work for psych reasons. I don’t know who started it. Was it my supervisor breaking HIPPA or a “friend”? And I use quotes around the word friend because a real friend would never mention something as serious as your mental health at work.
A month after being out of work on medical leave was when I also had enough of my addictions and decided to get clean. I wish I could say that I am so much better by now, but I’m not. I don’t see myself returning to work anytime in the near future either and my FMLA ran out already. I was supposed to return to work on 5/25/17 but I haven’t as of yet. I am too ashamed to return to a place where everyone knows my personal business. No one needs to know these specific things about me or my life. My mental health was supposed to be confidential. I have been laughed at, made fun of, and told to get over it. Get over it, huh, like it’s that easy. Like I made the conscious decision to have my mind and emotions stay this way.
The Human Resources Department for the Lehigh Region on my company seems to act like since mental illness can’t be seen or physically felt, that there is no reason to miss work. I am so close to getting laid off without having FMLA under my belt anymore. HR even cut my medical insurance already. I even have a valid medical note but my job doesn’t seem to care either way. I really wish I would have never told anyone at my place of employment that I was out for psychiatric reasons. Things would have been so much easier and less stressful for me that way. It is amazing to me how many people still stigmatize mental illness, especially employers.
The whole reason I even went out on medical leave in the first place was due to a mental breakdown caused by work-related stress. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t take anything anymore. I was a Senior Direct Support Professional in a residential group home, which means I was basically the assistant manager of the group home and I had no direction or support from my immediate supervisor. Or at least, that is what it felt like to me. I was under so much pressure and already having multiple mental health issues did not help much either.
One would think that since the company was about caring for individuals with mental illness and special needs that they would be more considerate of employees who were going through the same things, but that was so far from the truth. I really don’t want to return to a place that has double standards. It’s really not worth it anymore.
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.