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Mental Illness Poses Problems in the Workplace

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Mental health problems are still a taboo subject in most social circles. Unless is a close friend that you can share your darkest demons with, most people don't want to talk about mental health issues. This is especially true in the workplace, where you are expected to simply show up, get your work done and keep it together. However, some workplaces are realizing that mental health problems are as serious as physical ailments and are making movement toward helping employees who struggle.

Several companies, including Prudential Financial Inc. and Deloitte, have instituted programs to spot distress in employees. DuPont also has a program that allows training managers to identify signs of distress, but DuPoint still noted that a discussion between a boss and someone struggling with a mental illness "would never be encouraged". Disclosing mental health issues becomes tricky for individuals who worry that their diagnosis will derail their career trajectory. This is a valid concern, considering that although employers cannot discriminate against someone with a mental illness under the Americans With Disabilities Act, they can still comment on an individual's work productivity and other components of job performance.

Gabe Howard is an example of a fallout from mental illness at work. Gabe was diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders in 2004 and took several days off to stay in the hospital after trying to commit suicide. His co-workers were not pleasant–one accused him of not really being serious about committing suicide (it would've worked, had Gabe "really" wanted to die, according to this person) and the other claimed that Gabe simply wanted time off of work. He was eventually let go after supervisors questioned his diagnosis. But perhaps it was for the best, since Gabe found work as a mental-health advocate and speaker. It is time for us to take a serious look at mental illness and make the right moves toward addressing it in the workplace.