Mental Health Disorders Carry Stigma in Workplace

Many individuals who suffer from a mental disorder struggle to maintain a good quality of life. Everyday tasks and decisions can cause major strain, and cause many routine tasks to become cumbersome. However, for those who seek treatment, they can often experience improvement and then thrive.

However, a significant deterrent from seeking treatment is the stigma attached to mental disorders. Individuals may fear isolation and rejection from family and friends at a time when a solid support system is crucial.

A recent study conducted by researchers for WISE Employment found that the stigma attached to mental illness may be more limiting in seeking employment than that of physical illness or disability. WISE Employment is a non-for-profit group that is focused on aiding those looking for a job to find fulfilling occupations.

The study was commissioned as a part of Mental Health Week, which began on October 7, 2012. The Australian researchers noted that one of every five adults has experienced some type of mental illness during the past year.

In a global economy where enlightenment is celebrated, there remains a glaring stigma when it comes to mental illness, despite its pervasiveness. The study suggests that employers are still wary of hiring a person who is diagnosed with a mental disorder.

Matthew Lambelle, a representative of WISE Employment, explains that the finding reflects a lack of understanding. Mental illness, he says, is not associated with job performance.

WISE conducted the study in an effort to reduce the stigma associated with hiring individuals with a mental disorder. WISE supports the idea that an employee with a mental illness is capable of working and doing a job well.

In fact, Lambelle points out that if an employer has at least five individuals employed, they most likely include at least one person with a mental illness. This individual may be thriving in a position of authority and responsibility.

Accompanying the study’s findings was background information including previous research showing that among small and medium businesses that hired an employee with a diagnosed mental disorder, 72 percent reported a positive experience.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in the United States reports that when people do not seek out treatment for mental illness, stigma is a significant deterrent. Among those who do not obtain help for symptoms, approximately three-quarters cite discrimination, disrespect, shame or contempt as perceived consequences of diagnosis.

Patients may even struggle with self-stigma, and will avoid treatment to avoid having negative perceptions that may come with a diagnosis.

In order to improve the hiring rates of those with mental illness, there is a need for increased awareness about the importance of treatment. In addition, as employers gain awareness of the opportunities for their business found in capable employees being treated for mental illness, the prospects for workers will improve.

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