If one in four people have a mental health problem at some point in their lifetime, it should be something we can openly talk about without fear or ridicule, yes?
1 in 4 means approx 25 in 100, 250 in 1000 and so on. It means most families or workplaces will have someone who has suffered or is suffering with some degree of mental illness. It means in the UK, there are approximately 16.28 million people with a mental health issue, and 2.17 million in London.
So, why can’t we talk about it?
I spoke recently about the kerfuffle I was having in getting a firm offer for my new job. You can find that post here. When I last posted, I had been referred to a doctor from the occupational health nurse, because she wasn’t sure whether to give me clearance or not.
So, I met with the doctor last week. She was lovely and actually listened to what I was saying. She agreed that although my condition has peaks and troughs (as most mental illnesses do), it is well managed and I am very much aware of my own triggers and deterioration in my own condition. We also agreed that I know the importance of seeking help and when to do so. Consequently, she said she would be clearing me to start the position.
Based on my assessment today, there are no medical contraindications to prevent Ms “MamaEden&Me” from undertaking this position
Excellent, right? I thought so. When I was given my conditional offer, the conditions were that I could prove any relevant professional registrations (which was not applicable as I have none that apply to this job) and that if I had a health condition or disability, Occupational Health gave me clearance to start the role. Simple. The above is pretty much as clear as it gets. the MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL says I’m good to go.
Yesterday I emailed HR from home to ask when my firm offer would be with me, seeing as I have now received the clearance that we had been waiting for. A medical professional says I’m fit, so that must be it, right? Well, I didn’t hear anything from HR, but later in the day I received a voice message on my phone from the new job. A sort of “can you call me back?” type message.
I rang straight back. Basically they had called to make sure I knew what the job entailed and that it would be busy and there would be twelve hour shifts. This was not the person who interviewed me, so I told her that I used to take 999 calls for the ambulance service. I’ve done night shifts before. I’ve done twelve hour shifts before. This is old hat, really. Never mind the fact that the job is a band two reception role – no doubt it has its stressors but I’m not exactly applying to be CEO of the world, if you know what I mean? I work in a reception role currently, I know the workplace systems and such. I have some idea of at least the layout of the department because I had my baby there. It’s a new job, but it’s not “that” new really.
There were concerns raised. Concerns that I might relapse. I had six weeks off at the start of the year (after having no time off with it in the last three years…). What the doctor said in her letter was that good stress management in the workplace (which is something being fostered here anyway at the moment) would hopefully reduce the risk of relapse, but she cannot guarantee that I won’t relapse.
While I am hopeful that this may help reduce the risk of relapse of her condition, I cannot fully rule out the possibility of future relapses
The thing I struggle to understand about this is MOST health conditions have a relapse risk. If I had diabetes and my condition was well managed at present, there is still no guarantee of no future worsening. There’s no guarantee I won’t fall and break my leg tomorrow and require time off. This is what happens when you employ human beings – sometimes we need time off for various unavoidable things. I think what the doctor said is perfectly reasonable, but apparently this is a sticking point to the new dept who seem to think that I will cost them time and money if I relapse.
One thing that is on my side, is that the letter from the doctor also states this…
The nature of her condition in my opinion likely falls under the disability provisions of the Equality Act which would require consideration of reasonable adjustments within the context of her work.
So, although it has been stated in the letter that I do not need reasonable adjustments presently, it has brought up the good old Equality Act. I’m hoping that will offer me some protection, because I’m 99.9% sure that if they withdraw their conditional job offer at this point, that would discrimate against me as a disabled person.
After our conversation, the new job person then said they are off for a few days, but will discuss with their manager when they return and they will give me a call on Monday. Which is almost a week away. Ironically, guess what this is doing to my anxiety levels?
I was made to promise that I wouldn’t worry about this, but it’s very hard not to worry when the chance of the offer being withdrawn is mentioned and there are quite so many questions about exactly what kind of inconvenience your disability will cause. This may not have been how it was intended, but it is certainly how it is coming across presently. Before the occupational health report, we were talking training dates and notice periods. Now? We’re “I’ll have to talk to my manager” and “Give me until Monday to get back to you”. I don’t know. Something just doesn’t feel right.
Apart from anything, I just really want this job. I really need to get out of my current job and I want something new. If I didn’t feel I could do it, I wouldn’t have applied and jumped through all the hoops so far. I certainly would not have accepted the job when it was offered to me. It’s been six weeks now. I should have been two weeks into my new job. I’ve wanted to work in maternity for some time and the fact that it’s almost in my hands and could be snatched away at the last minute is soul destroying.
So, what have we learned from this? Lie. Tick no. Don’t be open and honest, because that doesn’t go in your favour. If you’re disabled, shut up and pretend that you’re not. Or even better, don’t be disabled. Essentially this.
Honestly, how can we foster an open dialogue about mental health when this happens? People question why there is a stigma. Just read the above and you’ll understand. By this point, my health condition is just a part of me. It has been for six years now. It’s part of the jigsaw pieces that make up Laura.
I’ll post an update when I have one. Please keep fingers crossed that I’ll actually get to start the job that I was so excited about starting!