Hidden disability

Recently a Norwegian politician « came out » as bipolar. She was interviewed on TV, sharing the challenges she has in her daily life, as well as what she feels she is gaining from being bipolar. She mentioned that her ups and downs make her appreciate the ups so much more, something other people possibly forget.

Our (lack of) mental health is still something we do not share widely with people, although I would say it is less of a taboo than before. Well known people, like e.g singer Robbie Williams and actor Ben Stiller, have publically informed that they are bipolar – which I do believe have contributed to more openness and acceptance of what one could call “hidden disability/condition/impairment”.

I know that here in France companies struggle to fulfill the government legislation of reserving 6% of the jobs for people with disabilities. It is assumed that quite a few employees have mental disabilities; they just do not inform their employer. Mental health is still taboo enough that employees do not feel safe to “come out” as someone with a mental illness. I read that some people feel safer coming out as gay or lesbian, than saying they have a mental illness. It is fear of being stigmatised, fear of not getting the projects and promotions that they believe they rightfully can earn. So what can be done? Awareness, education – and some more awareness and education.

And when I say awareness and education, I mean for all kinds of disabilities, whatever degree, visible or not. Over the years I have acquired the knowledge from disability networks and research published that the main barrier to people with disabilities being hired and promoted is a lack of awareness among hiring managers. An awareness session with some facts and tips, let’s say of a couple of hours, gives a good impact and start for behavioural change in a business. I have seen it happen. I was lucky to work in a company where many colleagues in D&I and HR felt passionately about hiring more people with disabilities. They conducted awareness sessions and followed up with managers and colleagues, hired more people with disabilities or impairments and clearly felt the environment and the company gained from it.

Coming back to hidden disabilities, what does your company do to create an inclusive environment for staff to be open about their mental health?

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