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Shining a light on mental illness in the workplace
This week, we called for more awareness and understanding from employers about severe mental illness.
Employers often make assumptions about people’s ability in the workplace when they have a mental health condition. People with a mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia can be especially stigmatised because of negative portrayals in the media and elsewhere.
In a new publication by think tank The Fabian Society, ‘Minds at Work’, our article urges employers to focus on the positives. We argue that: “The perceived ‘risk’ of taking on someone with a mental illness, or supporting those already in the workplace, often overshadows what an individual can offer”. We can help people realise their potential by training line managers to be more confident around mental health and making (often small) adjustments in the workplace, as we would expect for physical disability. This potential can be huge when we consider that emotional intelligence and resilience are traits that our charity recognises in many colleagues who have learned to manage a long term mental health condition.
Mental Health UK joined a panel with fellow contributors Barbara Keeley MP, the Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care, and Kate Dearden from Community Union to discuss practical action around mental health at work, at the Fabian Society’s annual conference.
Gillian Connor was on the panel for Mental Health UK and said that while mental health and wellbeing were rising up the agenda, severe mental illness needed ‘more airtime’ – but the positive kind. There were questions from the audience about training for ‘accidental’ managers. There was also agreement that we need to consider whether the Equality Act adequately protects those with mental illness.