The existence and tolerance of discrimination in society prevents people from developing their full potential, their talents and skills for the benefit of themselves and others. The labor market is an interacting and active environment in which discrimination can have profound consequences. However, it is very difficult to prove discrimination in the workplace. The reason is that it is illegal, and employers will hardly say that they discriminate against people with mental disorders. In addition, people with mental illness who apply for a position are rarely aware of discrimination against themselves, as the reasons for unsuccessful applications are rarely made public. Thus, the causes can be sought in insufficient qualifications, education, etc., and not related with the presence of a mental health problem.

Data on the American population from the Kaiser Family Foundation show the seriousness of the problem of mental health in the workplace. Depression treatment costs $ 110 billion a year, and half of that is borne by employers. In 2016, companies spent $ 2.6 billion on opioid addiction, eight times more than in 2004. According to the available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more and more people are taking their own lives. The number of suicides has increased by up to 14 per 100,000 people from 10.5 per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2017. One of the reasons is that many young workers are exposed to prolonged stress, depression, or anxiety. In fact, the share of workers with depressive symptoms increased by 18% from 2014 to 2018. Mental health problems in the workplace affect the individual, organizations and society and can affect health, behavior, organizational effectiveness and social well-being. Therefore, it is a good idea if the employee has a mental health problem, not to be neglected by his employer. In such situation, it is good to talk to the employee to understand what support he/she may need during work (or outside of work).

Support and care for the health, safety and well-being of employees must be a primary responsibility and goal of employers. Employment among people with mental illness is strikingly low. This low percentage reflects widespread discrimination in the workplace, which is not much talked about. In England, a third of people with mental health problems say they have been fired or forced to retire, 40% say they have been refused a job because of their history of psychiatric treatment, and about 60% say they avoid applying for a job because they expect to be treated unfairly. The high percentage of people who do not even try to apply for a certain vacancy position shows that discrimination in the workplace is a serious problem and is also felt by people with mental disorders.

Some of the motivations of employers not to hire young people with mental disorders are derived from a study by the charity Rethink Mental Illness. The study involved 500 people who are involved in decision-making when hiring new staff. The results show serious concerns:

  • 83% would be worry that a person with a mental illness will not be able to cope with the demands of their job
  • 68% are concerned that a person with a mental disorder will not be able to work well with the team
  • 74% suspect that a person with a mental disorder will need more and longer breaks

 

These results show that there is a barrier between people with mental disorders and employers. This barrier could be placed in the category of “discriminatory behavior”. However, despite these alarming figures, there is an encouraging response from employers, namely that more than half of the people surveyed (56%) would agree to hire a person with a mental illness if they were trained to feel better prepared to support it.

Creating a cozy environment and suitable conditions for young people with mental disorders will lead to many positive changes in favor of the place where he/she works. After all, hiring people with mental disorders is not as difficult and complicated as one might think. And in the right and understanding environment, they can be just as productive and efficient as others. We do not need to keep them away from being able to work and live independently. They deserve it just as much as anyone else.