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Mental Health Discrimination at Work


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I will start this off by explaining that I have bipolar disorder, anxiety and OCD, all of which I receive medication and treatment for. I also have a history of self-harm.

 

I started working for a supermarket a year and a half ago, and in my application i stated that I believed to suffer from a disability, my condition being mental health issues. I was also upfront about this in my face-to-face interview. I started off working in the clothing department of the store and my manager was great with me, understanding of my condition and knew i saw a psychiatrist and attended group therapy. I have my ups and downs in work, but last December I was overwhelmed with stress and anxiety and cut my arm during my lunch break. One of my colleagues bumped into me after I done it and noticed the blood from my arm and I was sent to the hospital to get stitches. The 'People Manager' of the store recommended I take a few days off after the incident.

 

In March, me and two others were moved to other departments due to cut backs and poor sales. I was moved to the bakery department and have struggled mentally since then. The job itself isn't hard at all, it's the amount of work that stresses me. There are 5 in on the dayshift, but only me on the back shift. There used to be two on the back shift, but they cut it down to save money, so I am doing work for two people. I always feel harassed into doing over time and during the summer I was on my own (as usual) on a busy Saturday and really struggled. One of the managers saw me and was concerned about me and I confided in her that I was really stressed and because I self-harm, it was doubly worse working unsupervised in an environment with knives etc. The manager sent me home and I was asked to see an occupational therapist a week later.

 

The occupational therapist told me that it was unacceptable that I had brandished a knife and threatened to cut myself. I told him that that never happened. He said it didn't matter and if my behaviour wouldn't change I would be out on my arse without a leg to stand on, and would struggle getting a job in this climate and without a good reference. When I spoke the 'People Manager' (head of personnel) about this, she said the occupational therapist shouldn't have used that language, but that the points he made were true. She said she has a duty to ensure I am fit for purpose and can do the job they pay me to do. She said she has to protect staff and customers from the aftermath of my self-harming as no-one should have to see that. She told me she would be monitoring me very closely for the upcoming months.

 

This happened at the end of August and ever since then it had bugged me. I have always been upfront about my illness and unfortunately one co-worker and my old manager saw my arm after I had self-harmed last December. I feel terrible that they saw that, but my fellow workers don't even know about my self-harming, and I wear long sleeved blouses that cover up my scars. I am very hard-working and polite, but I have told my manager repeatedly that I struggle on my own and I never get any help. When I wanted to move to a different department my manager wouldn't let me as she says I'm one of her best workers. I am also annoyed at how they added me "brandishing a knife and threatening to cut myself" on that busy Saturday during the summer. Am I being discriminated against or are they right and I just can't see it?

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I think a bit of both.... certainly cutting yourself at work is unacceptable.

 

 

A "reasonable adjustment" for you may be to not work alone as you seem to do better with people around you. Did you discuss this with Occ Therapist?

Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

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Yes I did discuss this with him, but he said that's something to take up with my manager which I have done, but to no avail. After I cut myself at work, I was told to immediately tell a manager if I felt that stressed again and I did. I never threatened to do it, just told her I'm struggling to do the amount of work on my own, and struggling with myself trying not to self harm, which was making me more upset.

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The point I am trying to make, which I should have done with my original post (my apologies for not doing so) is that if I has a physical disability, I would be treated differently. Everyone is meant to be till trained, but the make allowances for people with arthritis or similar conditions. It's rightly so that they make adjustments for those people, so why can't they help me when I ask them?

A woman who cancer in my department and was off for 9 months retuned to have her shifts reduced to suit her needs. She also works back shift and they get me in to help her. It's completely right that they provide this help for that woman, she truly deserves it, but why can't they help me?

I am not comparing myself to someone with an illness like cancer, but though it may be less severe, I have an illness too.I have uncontrollable mood swings, anxiety which causes me to take panic attacks and they still have me working on my own. I feel I am being punished for confiding in that manager that I was stressed to the point where I am having to fight with myself not to self harm. They told me to ask for help, but when i do I'm told I'll be out on my arse!

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So things to note

1) they can let you go for an y non discriminatory reason in the first 2 years. Now we know it would be for a discriminatory reason but they can make up a performance issue if they really want to. So if you can keep your head down for another 6 months it'd be helpful. Depends how extreme your condition is just now.

2) I think you need a re-referral to occ health. They should be making recommendations, not leaving it up to you to argue your case!

Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

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Thank you for replying.

 

If I'm honest, I think it was an empty threat/ kick up the backside. I don't take issue with them having a problem self-harming at work. I won't go into unpleasant detail, but it's something I usually do and keep private, but couldn't on that occasion as I had cut myself so deep.

My issue was with the way the occupational therapist spoke to me and the fact they had made up a story about me brandishing a knife. I do also know that the manager who dealt with me that day was upset at having her words twisted and told the head of personnel that was not what happened and was appalled at how I had been treated. I was just worried I has made myself an enemy of the head of personnel by speaking up about how I had been treated. I was polite and calm when i told her my grievance though, so I suppose it would be different if I'd approached her like a raging bull.

I just wanted to know what was right and wrong in this situation incase she made my life hell like she has done/does with employees she has problems with.

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"I think a bit of both.... certainly cutting yourself at work is unacceptable."

 

This is pretty unhelpful, and really not understanding of mental health issues. For example, would you say "having a heart attack/going into anaphalctic shock at work is unacceptable"?

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Hi Beardy, if you think my post is inappropriate, the best thing to do is use the report symbol to get the forum team to have a look at it.

 

I generally try and be honest, as I think that gives people the soundest basis to make decisions on. I can't see any employer liking that behavior, and I do hope OP can get to see occupational health again for proper guidance and suggestions her manager can implement, that may prevent her feeling like this at work again.

Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

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This is pretty unhelpful, and really not understanding of mental health issues. For example, would you say "having a heart attack/going into anaphalctic shock at work is unacceptable"?

 

I believe it to be relevant, and the OP has not complained.

 

Rightly or wrongly, employers will see a difference between an employee who has a heart attack in the workplace and one who self-harms in the workplace. Cutting may be be compulsive behaviour, but it's not involuntary.

 

In the same way, an employer may recognise that alcoholism is a mental health issue while still insisting that an employee may not drink vodka on duty. Said employers would do well to be sympathetic where possible, but there are things they simply cannot permit.

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