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Disclosing mental illness - can anybody advise?

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lizzie2022
lizzie2022 Community member Posts: 1 Listener
edited March 2022 in Work and employment
Hello and thank you for letting me join your forum. I'm wondering if anybody can help me with my situation at work.

I have had extremely poor mental health for several years, but was only diagnosed with bipolar disorder a year ago. Over those years, I was unable to work and hadn't been in employment. A few months ago I started a new 2 day a week job, thinking that I would be able to handle it as I am managing my health better.

I didn't disclose my bipolar disorder because I worried I wouldn't get the job, and I didn't want all my colleagues to know. It's not that I'm ashamed, but people are very judgemental about mental illness.

Anyway, I thought I was doing really well (my first job in a long time!) and I've been giving it my best, but a few weeks ago I got told they might extend my probation and they had a list of all of the things I've been doing wrong. It made me realise I'm still forgetting a lot and struggling with focus. I know to them I just seem really lazy, but the reality is I've been trying so hard and it's been aggravating my symptoms since day 1.

To be honest I was quite upset and was ready to quit, until I found out that I will have to pay back £500 of training costs if I quit now. All I have coming in is standard rate PIP, and I'm in debt from not being able to work for so long, it would set me back even further.

So I'm wondering if the right thing to do is be brave and declare. I hate the idea of people knowing and talking about me. But I can't expect them to understand my difficulties if I don't communicate them.

What happens when you talk to HR? Do they have to keep your disability confidential? My friend said it would mean they couldn't let me go for the issues related to my focus/memory, is that true?

Any advice would be really appreciated. I thought I was doing a good job and I feel really stuck now.

Thank you and have a good day
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Comments

  • L_Volunteer
    L_Volunteer Community Volunteer Adviser, Scope Member Posts: 7,983 Disability Gamechanger
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    Hi @lizzie2022

    Welcome to Scope's forum. It is great to see you have joined us. How are you today? Thanks for finding the courage to reach out for support today. I always appreciate how much courage it must take to reach out for support. Unfortunately, this is not my area of expertise but I am more than happy to talk this through with you and help you to explore your situation in more depth.

    Please take your time and be kind to yourself. A new diagnosis and a new job is a lot to process. You are doing really well and have been really brave in talking to us about how you are finding things. You can disclose at any stage and to anyone you feel comfortable talking to. You also don't have to disclose at all, unless you feel comfortable doing so and wish to. Though, not disclosing might reduce the support they are able to offer. Do you know if you would feel comfortable talking to anyone in particular in your new job and if so, how might you approach them?

    I am really sorry to hear you are struggling in your job. I think it is understandable that you are struggling in a new job though. What normally helps you when you are struggling with forgetting things, focusing, and managing your symptoms? Do you feel like you currently have sufficient support in place or is this something you would like more of?

    Scope has an article that you might hopefully find useful about talking to your employer about disability. If you are interested in exploring this further, you can find it at https://www.scope.org.uk/advice-and-support/talking-to-employer-about-disability/.

    I hope this helps but if we can do anything else to help, please just let us know! Also, hopefully, someone with more knowledge in this area will add further ideas to this thread to support you further. I hope you have a good day too  :)
    Community Volunteer Adviser with professional knowledge of education, special educational needs and disabilities and EHCP's. Pronouns: She/her. 

    Please note: if I use the online community outside of its hours of administration, I am doing so in a personal capacity only.
  • Alex_Alumni
    Alex_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,562 Disability Gamechanger
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    Hello @lizzie2022 thanks for reaching out on the forum. I can well understand your reservations about disclosing your disability at work, it's a scary thing.

    I think if you can disclose, then putting everything 'on the table' so to speak, will help your employers understand you and your way of working better, and will help you evidence the support you need. In my own experience the HR departments have always kept that information confidential, and it's always been down to me to disclose to colleagues.

    Remember, another good reason to disclose is reasonable adjustments. The Equality Act 2010 requires an employer to make reasonable adjustments to enable a disabled person to work. These include changes to working pattern and flexible working, whatever is helpful for you in managing work. 

    You might also be able to apply for Access to Work to  is that something you've considered before? 

    It's ultimately always your decision, but I hope we can help you get to know what support is available should you decide to disclose. Let us know if anything doesn't make sense, please don't hesitate to ask.

    Alex
    Online Community Coordinator
    Scope

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  • IrishManc
    IrishManc Community member Posts: 56 Pioneering
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    I was diagnosed with Aspergers here in the U.K. later in life (51) even though I was dubious about the true motivations of those pushing me towards getting a diagnosis, as not only am I an older Irish gay man who had endured a lot of prejudice and discrimination from (within) the gay community because of my Rural Irish Catholic background, I’d also endured a lot of (intense) bullying from childhood, for which I was always punished and in supermarket retailing for 30 years total, both in Ireland and here in the U.K. where I’ve lived for 20 years - I’m concerned that my diagnosis might make me even more of a target for workplace bullies than I already have been - I’d endured prejudice (and intense bullying) from the moment that I’d joined my last supermarket employer in 2003 and this continued right through my Mum’s death in 2009, Dad’s death in 2018 (they hugely resented my travelling home to Ireland for these funerals) up until my redundancy in 2019 (their having refused any transfer to an Irish store even at my family’s request) and all of these has had a huge effect on my mental health without my realising it - when Covid started and the Irish government travel restrictions kicked in, even though I’ve always held an Irish passport, this was another huge blow, even with their current “regional restrictions” even though most of these have been lifted in Ireland now - I’m hoping to travel home to Ireland by the end of 2022, as keeping in touch with my extended family in Ireland has been hugely important to me 
  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Scope Posts: 12,506 Disability Gamechanger
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    I'm sorry to hear about everything that you've been through @IrishManc. You should feel comfortable being yourself at work, without fear of bullying or discrimination.

    You may find the following pages on our website helpful to read:
    I hope that you manage to travel to Ireland before the end of 2022 :) 
    National Campaigns Officer, she/her

    Sign our petition calling on politicians to stop demonising us
  • shellbell20
    shellbell20 Community member Posts: 260 Pioneering
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    Hello and thank you for letting me join your forum. I'm wondering if anybody can help me with my situation at work.

    I have had extremely poor mental health for several years, but was only diagnosed with bipolar disorder a year ago. Over those years, I was unable to work and hadn't been in employment. A few months ago I started a new 2 day a week job, thinking that I would be able to handle it as I am managing my health better.

    I didn't disclose my bipolar disorder because I worried I wouldn't get the job, and I didn't want all my colleagues to know. It's not that I'm ashamed, but people are very judgemental about mental illness.

    Anyway, I thought I was doing really well (my first job in a long time!) and I've been giving it my best, but a few weeks ago I got told they might extend my probation and they had a list of all of the things I've been doing wrong. It made me realise I'm still forgetting a lot and struggling with focus. I know to them I just seem really lazy, but the reality is I've been trying so hard and it's been aggravating my symptoms since day 1.

    To be honest I was quite upset and was ready to quit, until I found out that I will have to pay back £500 of training costs if I quit now. All I have coming in is standard rate PIP, and I'm in debt from not being able to work for so long, it would set me back even further.

    So I'm wondering if the right thing to do is be brave and declare. I hate the idea of people knowing and talking about me. But I can't expect them to understand my difficulties if I don't communicate them.

    What happens when you talk to HR? Do they have to keep your disability confidential? My friend said it would mean they couldn't let me go for the issues related to my focus/memory, is that true?

    Any advice would be really appreciated. I thought I was doing a good job and I feel really stuck now.

    Thank you and have a good day
    I know it is a very personal thing to disclose disabilities, especially Mental Health.  I decided to disclose mine with my last job, I didn't want to hide or be ashamed anymore of just being me.  Once you make this disclosure and tell them that you have trouble focusing and memory issues, I am sure they will do all that is necessary to help you such as Reasonable Adjustments.  A good employer will be there to lift you up and help you.

    However,  I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but they can let you go if they wish to do so (I speak from experience).  So your friend is right that they shouldn't let you go if you disclose your disability relating to focus/memory and they should look to help you with Reasonable Adjustments, but sometimes employers don't follow the correct procedures and find themselves in an Employment Tribunal. I must say though this is the minority. My only advice to you if you decide to disclose is perhaps to do it via an audit trail such as email or letter?
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