Call me narrow-minded, but I think that people with mental health problems present real difficulties for employers. I was, therefore, not surprised to read (Personnel Today, 17 October) that almost half of all UK employers believed this.
Employers need people who are reliable, productive and well-motivated. I’m sure there are people with mental health problems who have these characteristics, but many of them will take time off work to cope with their illness or will have to be handled with kid gloves so that they are not caused any anxiety or pressure.
Mental health problems are horrible and often beyond the control of the affected individuals. But why should employers be expected to put up with higher rates of absence, unreliability and/or poor performance? A teacher friend of mine has been on and off work with depression for years. Meanwhile his school has kept his post open. Every now and then he feels well enough to return to school, but it only ever lasts for a few weeks.
I have every sympathy for him, but why should the school and his pupils have to put up with the unpredictability his illness entails?
Another friend is manic depressive. She has a routine office job, but cannot handle conflict of any kind. If she is faced with even a minor confrontation she goes off sick leaving her employer to cope with the fall-out.
I’m not saying that employers shouldn’t employ people who have a history of mental health problems. My point is that it is unrealistic to expect that there will be no additional issues.
Perhaps it’s down to those who have a mental health problem to convince employers that their illness will not get in the way of them doing a good, reliable and productive day’s work. At the end of the day that’s all most employers want.