Should my Bipolar Disorder be Disclosed in the Workplace?

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Bipolar disorder is classified as a mental illness characterized by alternating periods of mania and depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, those with bipolar disorder often experience mood swings and changes in activity levels, which can affect all aspects of daily life. If you have bipolar disorder, you may be wondering how and if you should address this in your workplace – after all, it’s a common fear that those who disclose this information to managers and/or employees will face ostracization and other reactions from stereotypes.

David J. Miklowitz, professor of Psychology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, explained for Forbes Magazine the challenges that many with bipolar disorder face when it comes to the workplace. He stated,

The stigma is real. It can be as subtle as fellow workers attributing justifiable reactions to situations to your illness, or as blatant as not getting a job or a promotion”.

Previous research has followed through to confirm these fears, as previous studies have found that individuals who have disclosed their mental illness in the workplace have reported being denied opportunities for training, promotion, or transfer, and coworkers have reported viewing an individual with a mental illness as a personal failure. However, to push past these obstacles in the workplace we must, as a society, discuss mental illness more openly and provide more support for those who disclose.

For example, the Huffington Post argues that businesses are losing $100 billion and 217 million lost workdays due to mental illness. If businesses can learn to address these concerns with employees and provide more resources and support, productivity levels and employee retention may yield incredible rewards. In addition, creating a culture of acceptance means that there is less stress, more conversation, and more inclusion. These benefits are so large that many employees would gladly take a salary cut in exchange for these invaluable gains.

If you have bipolar disorder, it is completely up to you whether you feel open and safe to disclose your mental disorder to your employer and/or coworkers. Never compromise your safety if you feel that it would be threatening to disclose. If you work for a company that values inclusion and acceptance, this could be a fantastic opportunity to build more cohesion in your workplace. If not, you may be able to speak with your company’s Human Resource department to learn more about how you can incorporate a more inclusive-centered atmosphere into your workplace.

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