The Advantages of Employing People with Mental Illness

The stigma on mental illness prevents people from not only getting the proper care, but also speaking about their experiences that could serve as part of their recovery.

Mental illness can be unique to each person, perhaps analogous to the 10 digit number on a dollar bill.  There is no prototype of someone with a mental illness.

But many who have suffered with depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, can turn their illness from a disadvantage into an advantage, if deliberated addressed. I believe this is possible, and this is what I have been trying to do. I believe that with control, the illness or disorder can be beneficial in certain spaces, like the workplace. But even when things are not in control, it should not be seen as a disadvantage. It would just require your work environment to be educated and adjusted to what is feasible for your condition. This is the case for anyone with disabilities. From my understanding, people with disabilities are protected under the law. Mental disorders are considered disabilities.

In short, there are many more advantages than disadvantages to employing someone with a mental illness, when an individual has established good control, self-awareness, and seeking appropriate treatment, than there are disadvantages in doing so.

Here are five BIG reasons I have come up with so far (I intend to add to this in a future post). As mental conditions vary, this actually may not apply to everyone, but please let me know if you do relate to this or agree to my analysis here.

  1. A sense of compassion and empathy towards their co-workers in the working environment. Naturally, there may be a level of compassion to challenges that can be enhanced from suffering through a medical or mental condition.
  2. More knowledge and understanding about the importance of diverse personality types in the work environment. The personality disorder or illness should be categorized as a personality type.
  3. Working teams’ knowledge of individual’s mental illness can help in team performance, focusing on the strengths of the employee.
  4. Exemplifies greater self-awareness in individual work which is beneficial to improvement and individual performance enhancement.
  5. Operates with open-mindedness and detail-oriented nature. This is especially the case for individuals with OCD, particular those who pay extra attention to detail. Although it can be debilitating, it is important to promote and be informed on the positive side of having great attention to detail.

Ultimately, employing someone with mental illness will help defeat the stigma of mental illness in the work place with an open conversation about mental health. The key is to recognize there will be days where an individual will be struggling, and to honor that, and most importantly recognize that it is in fact a medical condition.

If there is greater self-awareness, self-recognition as well as a collective effort to come out of comfort zones and become familiar, I will argue that there are more advantages than disadvantages in the employing people with debilitating mental illnesses.

Most importantly, we have to welcome the idea that mental illnesses, like anxiety and depression, are the most under-diagnosed diseases and there may be some people in our surroundings that may have some form of mental illness at some level. It is an unfortunate invisible reality.

And we must welcome the idea that the conversation around mental illness needs to become commonplace and normalized in every aspect of our daily life. It is more detrimental to workplace performance and improvement, in producing deliverables and achieving results to enhance company/organizational benefits, when we continue to create an environment that allows for the masking and shaming of individuals who suffer from these legitimate diseases.

Please do remember, this comes from personal insight, observation, and individual reading/research. I am not a scholar on this topic. But I have done extensive research and reading, and have my own experiences that shed light to this topic.

I will post more about this in the future. In the meantime, let me know if you have any initial thoughts!

It would be wonderful to add more insight to this important area, as I know this article just scratches the surface.

Peace, Warmth, and Blessings,

Elsa, the Warrior KQueen

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