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Mental Health Issues in the workplace

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by doctorinthetardis, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. doctorinthetardis

    doctorinthetardis New commenter

    About 10 years ago when I was a teenager, I was
    diagnosed as Bi-Polar with a Borderline Personality Disorder. I've
    worked so hard and been through a lot to get to where I am today. I
    guess right now, when I'm having a real hard time regulating my emotions
    in repsonse to a series of stressful and hard issues I've had to deal
    with recently, I'm struggling to accept my issues since I am not sure
    they are accepted within professional boundaries such as teaching.
    I'm fine, I'm a great teacher. Even when I'm not, I can maintain my
    work if nothing else. I can be fine for a long time. In fact its this
    episode I'm having which is most painful because when I'm well, I can
    pretend that in fact I'm better, it's not part of me anymore. That I
    don't really have either disorder. They're pretty serious mental health
    issues to be diagnosed with. Right now I'm feeling very unwell. I am
    going to the doctors tomorrow to go back on some medication to help. I
    know I'm strong and I'll get through this. However, I don't want to take
    long off from work because I don't want to jeopardize everything I've
    worked so hard to overcome to do a job I love as a teacher.
    I'm more than aware, no matter what people say, there is a huge stigma
    attached to mental illness especially in an environment where
    responsibility for children is paramount and educators or prinipals may
    well have an issue with my diagnosed issues. I also worry because I feel
    huge pressures right now to balance the issues I'm having with
    maintaining my professional image and abilty at work. I won't go into
    work tomorrow so I can go see a psychiatrist. I know I can only take a
    maximum 2 or 3 days off to get through the worst of this episode and
    then manage till the weekend. He'll give me drugs I've had before and
    they knock you out of it for a few days. Help balance the chemicals in
    my brain.
    I don't know what I'm expecting from this forum but I
    guess some advice or opinions regarding your perceptions of mental
    health issues with teaching and/or employers and if you know or have
    known those who have also balanced their illness with working as a
    teacher, to encourage me. I'm feeling dispirited. Thank you.
  2. Sorry to hear that you are currently feeling unwell.
    For convenience, I post some comments based on my limited knowledge/reading alhtough I'm sure others with more detailed knowledge will be able to develop this important thread.
    Are you located in the UK? Does your employer know that you suffer this condition?
    If so, then the following may be relevant, although I doubt it will be new to you.
    In the UK, the Disability Discrimination Act gives some support to employees with mental
    health conditions that prevent them from carrying out their normal

    Under the Act, employers cannot discriminate against an
    employee on the grounds of a disabling mental health condition.
    Employers must make "reasonable adjustments" to accommodate the needs of an
    employee whose mental health condition lasts longer than 12 months. Action can be taken before 12 months of absence on the understanding
    that without reasonable adjustments the absence could last more than 12
    months.For example, it would seem given your condition that the employer could reasonably be expected to agree to a period of sick leave while medication
    and counselling stabilises your condition. You may be referred to the Occupational Health Service.

    In terms of further specific reasonable adjustments, the employer could provide a phased return, job share, changes to the timetable, extra classroom support, reduced extra-curricular activities
    I hope you make a speedy recovery.

  3. frustum

    frustum Lead commenter

    If the doctor signs you off for the whole week, for goodness sake
    take the whole week off. It sounds as if you have already demonstrated
    that you can do this job the vast majority of the time, and the DDA
    ought to protect you from discrimination because you need a week or two
    off very occasionally.
    I agree that mental health does still carry a stigma that other health issues don't. If you were being given treatment for anything else that knocked you out of it, you wouldn't go rushing back to school.
  4. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

  5. dc521

    dc521 New commenter

    I can echo what the other people have posted.
    I am a former depressive. I never use the term 'recovered' as I can still, on very rare days, feel the warning signs building up in me.
    I have to say that I have a very supportive head, a fantastic staff and general support in the school from all staff. They know about my past and also know that it can 'flare' up. The last time this happened, they knew exactly what to do (we have an agreement that one person and one person only will just ask me if I'm OK and if I'm not, I just say and then I'm asked what I want to do next) and made sure I was OK. That's the support that I need and it is vital for my long term health.
    Firstly, does your school know about your condition? I would suspect that at least one person has realised that you're not 'right' at the moment. People can be very helpful, even if it's to do the most mundane of things. If your school do not know, this needs to be addressed as your condition is one that can impact on your work.
    Secondly, if you are signed off, put on any kind of treatment, need to see a counsellor or whatever is best for your condition, then stick with it! School should be able to offer you reasonable release time to see a counsellor (or whatever you need) if the appointment is in school time. Equally, has school made an occupational health referal? I would see this as a way to make sure that you're able to express what you need and for your school to know this and have it in writing. As people have pointed out, you have legal protection but it's how you make it work that's the important thing.
    I would suggest that you contact any of the support groups for Mental Health. They will know exactly what's going on with your condition and how to help you work as a teacher. The Teacher Support Network is excpetional as well. Consider contacting your Union so that they can explain your rights as well. While you're very clear about this being a 'flare', it never hurts to arm yourself with information for when you are back on track.
    Finally, just remember it's a job. Yes, you're highly dedicated and for someone with bi-polar to effectively teach and do an amazing job that they are proud of is something that we should all applaud. However, if you're having a 'flare' in your condition, you must come first. I hope that it's just a rare event. If your condition changes or causes more longer term issues, then it's clear it would need to be managed more differently.
  6. doctorinthetardis

    doctorinthetardis New commenter

    Thank you everybody for your replies, they are much appreciated. Unfortunately I work overseas at an International School so there are no unions or suport groups or legal protection.
    My coordinator is aware of some of the issues I have had in the past and she is supportive although we have never discussed it candidly.
    I went to the local hospital which has a great psychiatrist who gave me meds. He also reassured me I can be bi-polar and successful. He also told me I had to accept it which is what I have been struggling with most because at the bottom of it, I don't want to accept it. When I'm well which I am for long periods in the past few years, it's easy for me to pretend it was an old diagnosis and not relevant anymore.
    He also gave me a sick note from Monday till Wednesday (tomorrow). The meds are quite strong and knocking me out of it a bit .. I am considering returning tomorrow but only just. I think for my own health, I need to take it off just to give my body and mind time to relax from all of this and recover. Then I'll head back in Thursday. I am at the point for the first time in my life where I need to recognise life will go on at the school and its time to give myself a short break and do whats right for me right now.

  7. Sorry to hear about your experiences with bi-polar. Like you I have days when my mood is higher than others and as you say this is the determining factor which dictates my performance in everything I do. The better I feel the more inspired my work.

    The more I see that a mood is simply a mood, and stop judging it as anything else I am free to let it pass. When I start judging how I feel I am simply compounding and continuing the cycle that got me there in the first place. It is always our thinking which creates how we feel, when we understand the nature of thought we have freedom.

    I have written a report called the truth about stress which might offer you some useful insights about how the mind works. You can get it on my website and access other resources which may help you.


    best wishes


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