Mental Health In The Work Place – Don’t Mind The Gap

Jacquie Ryan

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Pain - Photo credit Raccho (Flickr)
Pain – Photo credit Raccho (Flickr)

Don’t Mind the Gap is a is a website set up by MBA student Miriam Dowling. The aim of the page is to look at mental health issues in the workplace. She has also set up a Facebook page that allows people interact, tell their experiences with ‘the gap’. I met with Miriam and asked her a few questions relating to her page. Miriam is currently starting her dissertation, a part of which she is planning to look at the concept of ‘disclosure of mental health during the job application process’

I asked Miriam why she set up the Facebook Group ‘Don’t Mind the Gap’. She spoke of trying to get back to the work place after a bout of depression, although very qualified she was not getting any positive feed pack and only a few calls to interviews. The few interviews she did get called to, she was asked to explain the gap in her employment on her CV. There is not correct answer to this question. She could lie, but did not feel comfortable doing this, the other option was to tell the truth, that she had been out of work due to depression, but she believed that this would impede on her chance of getting the job.

In 2014 the Green Ribbon Campaign, was created. The aim of this campaign was to see that ‘more than 300,000 green ribbons, distributed nationwide, free of charge to spark a national conversation about mental health in boardrooms, break-rooms, chat rooms, clubhouses, arts venues, college campuses and around kitchen tables throughout Ireland…..To make the month of May every year synonymous with promoting open conversation of mental health and challenging the stigma of mental health problems.’

faxpilot (flickr)
faxpilot (flickr)

The EU Agency for Safety and Health have produced a document, called, ‘Mental Health Promotion in the Workplace a Good Practice Report’, where they refer to the large number of people who abstain or take early retirement from work due to their mental health issues. One of the findings of this report suggested that employers are concerned with the financial burden of hiring someone with mental health issues. Miriam spoke of the unknown risk, she said that she can see the issue from both sides. She finds it frustrating that people with Mental Health issues have a harder time getting jobs, she also suggests that many people have similar issues, when they suffer from other health issues or physical disabilities. However she understands that there is a fear among employers on costs, and staff needing extra sick leave and special adaptations.

These feelings pose the question, should there be reasonable accommodation in the work place for those who suffer with health issues?  If so what should these accommodations be? Should there be allowances by the state to assist employers, financially? Would an allowance given by the state to companies employing those with health issues be a money saver in the long run? Would it take people out of early retirement and off disability payments? Would the implementation of these rules for those with special requirements due to their health issues, help encourage employers to hire such staff? Would type of employment be beneficial to those, especially with mental heath issues to get out and about within society?

Flickr (epSos .de)
Flickr (epSos .de)

Recent research by BUPA, a British health insurer, suggested that ’78 per cent of employees believed there is a stigma around mental health issues in the workplace’. In a recent interview with the Irish Times, Sorcha Lowry, from See Change, stated that the Mental Health Commission’s report ‘The Economics of Mental Health Care in Ireland’ estimated the direct annual cost of poor mental health services in Ireland is at least €3 billion or 2 per cent of GNP. These costs include loss of potential labour supply, unemployment, absenteeism and reduced productivity in the workplace.’

It can only be hoped that such studies, dissertations and groups such as Miriam’s can help remove the stigma of mental health within the work place, and make the employment market a fairer place to be.

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Jacquie Ryan