CHOICES II-7 - Impediments to Acceptance 1F

Robin Cunningham Health Guide

    I'm pleased to report that Carolyn [DCROY9633], Chris [UK], and David Peek {UK] all responded to my blog last week about "Deliberate Ignorance."  Carolyn's observations once again were astute.  Chris wrote and dedicated a new blog to me [which blows me away]!  David is new to SchizophreniaConnection, so let's all welcome him to our site.


    In my last blog we talked about Deliberate Ignorance, where someone [who may or may not themselves be ignorant concerning mental illness] exploits the ignorance and fears of others about mental illness to eliminate someone with a mental illness from the "competition."  Christina Bruni dealt with this possibility [which is probably most prevalent in the workplace] explicitly in her blog of 13 November 2008 entitled "The Working Life: Disclosing on the Job."  Carolyn commented that "even beyond embarrassing is the fact that many would just as soon stay ignorant and perpetuate the misinformation."

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    Christina, in her blog cited above, recommends against disclosing to present or potential employers unless you require some special accommodation, such as Friday afternoons off once a month to see you therapist.  I agree completely.  If you do your job as well as or better than others, and/or do not require some special accommodation because of your illness, the fact that you have schizophrenia is none of the employer's business.  Because of the ignorance that prevails in our society concerning mental illness, disclosure, in my experience, almost always has destructive effects.


    In my last blog, I promised in this blog to give you the employer's perspective on this issue.


    In my business career I have hired and fired workers, whose job titles have ranged from mailroom clerk to President, in both small start-up companies and large international corporations.  From the company's point of view, the decision about hiring a worker who has disclosed that they have a mental illness is simple and straight forward.  Let's look at a hypothetical situation.

    My name is Jake Perkins and my boss, the Vice President of New Business Development, has finally given me permission to hire a much needed full-time [or part-time] person to work on one of the company's most important new products.  I know that my performance in the matter could have a significant impact on my own career.

    After reviewing over 200 resumes and interviewing fifteen applicants, I have narrowed the field to just two prospective employees.  In terms of their education, expertise, and previously work history they are equally matched.  I asked each of the two to come in for a final interview with me.  In this last interview Applicant A discloses that he has schizophrenia.

    I see no evidence in Applicant A's work history, or in my interviews of him, that his illness has ever caused a problem.  But I remember the last movie I saw on TV in which a person with schizophrenia was huddled in a corner of a room drooling.  I know that this is not an accurate depiction of someone with schizophrenia.  I've heard that, with modern forms of treatment, people with schizophrenia often recover, becoming reliable, productive members of society.  Then there is my cousin, ken, who seems to relapse every five or six years.  But I'm interviewing for an important position and my career may be adversely affected if I make a mistake.  My wife wants to retire early from her job, and my daughter and son are expecting to go to college, which I know will stretch our family budget to the limit.  I don't know what my boss' position is on giving people with mental illnesses the benefit of the doubt, but I'm not about to ask him.


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    Does Jake hire Applicant A or Applicant B?  Whom would you hire?


    This situation is more common than you might think.  How can we address this situation?  Please express your views and make suggestions or comments by entering a reply to this blog.

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    Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions.  If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.


Published On: November 16, 2008