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'I'm ok with talking about my mental health problems - but will it affect my employability?'

Natalie Marr says she posts about her mental history despite concerns that it might affect her job options.

Natalie Marr Mental health activist at goneonfortoolong.com

A COUPLE OF weeks ago, I wrote an article about the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and my own experiences relating to this.

As I mentioned in the article, I am no longer ashamed to admit that I suffer from mental health problems, and I have a great wish to try to help the fight against stigma.

There was a great response to the article overall, which I was delighted with. I spent all of Sunday evening and most of Monday reading the comments and checking to see how many views it had (probably half of the views it got were from myself, refreshing the page!).

However, a couple of acquaintances, as well as a close family member, mentioned to me that they were concerned about my talking on a public platform about my mental health history.

Job concerns

I know these concerns were only raised out of complete love and concern for me. They are mostly concerned about my future employability – that a potential employer searching my name on Google might come across these articles.

This is something that I strongly considered before sending in my first piece in December 2014. It is entirely possible that someone may come across my story and write me off before even getting a chance to meet me.

My response to my family member was that if someone does not want to employ me based on what they read in my article, then I probably would not want to work for them anyway. This may come across as quite flippant, but it is honestly how I feel.

Negative attitudes

In recent years, I have experienced stigma in a workplace setting. In one particular instance, I required three days off under doctor’s advice in order to spend some time recovering from a particularly bad episode of depression and anxiety.

I had never missed a day of work in this organisation before this, so my employer was perfectly happy to allow me to take the time off. However, I then made the mistake of voluntarily disclosing the exact nature of the illness I was suffering from, and the response from my employer was not at all positive.

Workplace discrimination about mental health is alive and well in Ireland. In his article Dr Stephen McWilliams discusses this issue in further detail, and I found it particularly enlightening.

Support

In my current workplace, Viking Splash Tours, I have a fantastic relationship with my employers. My managers are fully aware of my history, and are always very accommodating when I need a bit of extra help, whether it be to lend a listening ear, or to let me leave work an hour early to attend therapy.

I also have a fantastic bunch of workmates who will always be there for me if I need some support.

I love working there, and it is a hard place to leave, but at some point I know that I will want to move on and go on to new challenges.

My ‘CV’

So, to any future employer who is reading this article and is wondering whether they should ‘take the risk’ and give me a chance at an interview, I want to tell you the following:

I am a confident, articulate, 27 year old. I have eleven years’ experience working in offices, at various levels of responsibility, and don’t fall to pieces in a fast paced environment.

I get on well with other people in the workplace, and always chip in where I can. The only bugbear my colleagues and managers have are my terrible, terrible jokes. Think Penguin bar jokes, but 10 times worse.

I will rarely miss a day due to my mental health, especially if you are supportive and understanding of my circumstances.

Indeed, my last major bout of anxiety was in April 2014, when I ended up in St. John of Gods for five days. Yet with the support and kindness of my course coordinators I managed to hand in my Masters dissertation on time that August and achieve a 2:1.

Many people will need some help now and again, whether it relates to a mental or physical illness, or other things that happen in their lives. If you give me a chance, I will flourish in your workplace.

Mental health problems can happen to anyone at any time, so it may make you better prepared to help a loved one in the future.

So come on: if the CV I sent in to you looks good, why not call me for that interview?

Natalie Marr is a current employee of Viking Splash Tours, where she is ‘fondly’ known as Natalie the Noxious.

Read: ‘I told my date that I had depression and he laughed and told me I was just lazy’

Read: Employees: Why do Irish companies still see mental health issues as sign of weakness?

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About the author:

Natalie Marr  / Mental health activist at goneonfortoolong.com

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