David Norris: Mental Health and Acceptance

A history of mental illness often means facing a dilemma: should you be open about it and risk rejection? David Norris believes in openness and here relates how that can unfairly affect your chances in life.

palm held up saying no

I applied for a job recently. It was a research position on a project at a prestigious academic institute which I should but won’t mention (although it’s not local). I had a good chance of getting the job and I felt that I would have contributed a lot to the project.

I went for interview and the inevitable question was asked: “There seems to be a long pause in your work record. Can you elaborate on that?” I answered, “I had some health issues which have now been resolved.” He said, ‘Just be frank.’

So, I scuppered my chances of ever getting the job by telling him I had a mental health issue. Perhaps I should not have revealed who I was and my experiences through life but I felt uncomfortable not revealing my ‘flaws’. I am open and honest which I feel is a strength, not a weakness.

I don’t regret or indeed am not fazed or embarrassed by my history of mental illness. I believe that I have a lot to offer.

It is one thing telling people who are ‘in the same boat’ as me – a situation in which I feel comfortable. It is another to open yourself up, as you inevitably will, to a scrutiny which demands you defend your life, health and existence.

I am not worried by others’ acceptance of my history. I am not defined by my experiences of mental illness; rather, I have grown from them.

I will leave you with a quote (by me):
‘It is often the case that the most capable and conscientious candidate is not necessarily the one with an unblemished life healthwise.’

I wish I had the strength to fight for mental health rights. We shall see. Watch this space.

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