• Welcome! It’s great to see you.

    If you'd like to talk with people who know what it's like

    Our forum members are people, maybe like yourself, who experience mental health difficulties or who have had them at some point in their life.

To declare or not to declare, that is the question

G

Ginger Kitten

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Oct 2, 2020
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Surrey, Uk
I have an employment advisor through my mental health team who advises declaring my bipolar status at work. I really don't want to. I don't want it on my record, and I don't want bipolar to invade my working life either. I just want one area of my life to be 'free' from it. If I became unwell, I would then declare it, because I would have to, but otherwise, I am not keen on the idea. I realise the benefits of declaring (eg, 'reasonable adjustments' and increased understanding from colleagues) but equally there are disadvantages, such as stigma, stereotyping and labelling.
I would be interested to hear the views of others; not that I am likely to change my own opinion on the matter (or at least, not at the moment), I am just curious.
With best wishes to you all, and wishing my fellows in the UK a Happy Bank Holiday Monday, Ginger.
 
Wishbone

Wishbone

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Hmm. I'd probably declare it given you've already got the job, I wouldn't if you were applying for a new one though. My reasons for it are the ones you said, reasonable adjustments especially, but also because you'll have more of a powerful position with regards to being fired as they won't be able to do so for having time off or anything like that. They shouldn't tell all of your colleagues, only the boss/bosses, so it shouldn't be a problem, and if anything, again, it would give you more power because they can't say anything to you or about you if it was official.
 
G

Ginger Kitten

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Being fired isn't an issue at my workplace, Wishbone, they have been more than accommodating: I have only recently returned due to an absence of 4 months, which was due to concerns over Covid. I asked for unpaid leave until family members and I had been vaccinated and this was granted unconditionally. And I happen to know the general manager is supporting someone with anxiety, so it's a friendly environment overall, not a hostile one. My supervisor was the exception to the rule, but now he's been demotied this week, he should be less of a problem.

I know I could declare here but I really am concerned about it becoming general knowledge. I know managers are supposed to keep it confidential, but they are only human and people do talk... Plus, I'm not even sure I want a manager to know. As I said, I wanted my workplace to be the one area of my life where bipolar doesn't intrude and take over. I have managed to keep it private for the 18 months I have been there, and I seem to be gaining some sort of control over my episodes (I just reined a mini-episode in within 2 weeks), so at the moment, I think I will stick with not declaring, because that feels right to me. If things were to change and, God forbid, I got ill, then I would reconsider, but I don't think I would ever declare having bipolar. I am not ashamed of it at all, but I think people are still quite uninformed about this illness. I would probably just declare 'a mental health issue' and leave it at that.

Thank you for your response, wise and considered as ever. Have a good weekend, GK.
 
K

keith74

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Sep 14, 2020
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351
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Canada
My wife now goes on a "need to know" basis. If she finds it prudent/helpful that someone knows, she will disclose it. Otherwise no need to just tell people for no reason. Before this, she tried to hide it at all costs, all the time. This can cause some paranoia which ended up help triggering her last manic episode. She is a more open about things now. Her workplace knows because she has been on sick leave for months because of her mood swing (mania followed by depression) so they would have to know the reason. But she feels like some burden off her shoulders that people at work now know. I think your idea that you would disclose if you were feeling unwell is a reasonable one. In Canada, mental health is taken pretty seriously so an employer must be as accommodating as possible to someone who is struggling with it. She has noticed that her workplace has been more accommodating once they found out vs in the past when she hid it and struggled through. Her co-workers are aware now and supportive. Now that they are aware, my wife will feel more comfortable approaching them next time she struggles with her illness and they can help her the right way. I'm sure there are others who will gossip and judge her for her illness. But she is ok with that as the pros outweigh the cons.
 
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Underdog21

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Mar 26, 2021
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48
Location
Oxford
I have an employment advisor through my mental health team who advises declaring my bipolar status at work. I really don't want to. I don't want it on my record, and I don't want bipolar to invade my working life either. I just want one area of my life to be 'free' from it. If I became unwell, I would then declare it, because I would have to, but otherwise, I am not keen on the idea. I realise the benefits of declaring (eg, 'reasonable adjustments' and increased understanding from colleagues) but equally there are disadvantages, such as stigma, stereotyping and labelling.
I would be interested to hear the views of others; not that I am likely to change my own opinion on the matter (or at least, not at the moment), I am just curious.
With best wishes to you all, and wishing my fellows in the UK a Happy Bank Holiday Monday, Ginger.
Hi,

This is just my personal opinion. I think people in general have a deeper knowledge or at least are more at ease with Bipolar Disorder( some people think of it as being happy one minute and down the next) than say Schizophrenia. To be honest with you if I had a diagnosis of Schizophrenia I would definitely be worried and wary of telling people about my diagnosis because Schizophrenia carries far more stigma.When people hear the word Schizophrenia they think of killers and mentally severely impaired. I've met people with Schizophrenia who developed anxiety that they didn't want anyone to know about their diagnosis. I wouldn't mind sharing because there are also tons of celebrities who are opened about their Bipolar disorder.But that's just my feelings towards Bipolar illness.
 
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Gratefultobewell

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Mar 4, 2021
Messages
92
Location
Massachusetts, USA
Me personally would agree with keith74. I’m always unsure of when I should talk about my illness or not. A lot of people don’t have an understanding of what bipolar is all about. I guess you’ll have to go with your instincts. I have been in some groups that I never would tell, some that I’ve told and regretted it, and some people that have been really understanding. I worked with a group of people that found out when I was hospitalized for depression, and I know I was the subject of gossip. Years later I went out with a group from work, and I overheard someone say, Well she looks ok.
 
JessisMe

JessisMe

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Nashua NH
Being fired isn't an issue at my workplace, Wishbone, they have been more than accommodating: I have only recently returned due to an absence of 4 months, which was due to concerns over Covid. I asked for unpaid leave until family members and I had been vaccinated and this was granted unconditionally. And I happen to know the general manager is supporting someone with anxiety, so it's a friendly environment overall, not a hostile one. My supervisor was the exception to the rule, but now he's been demotied this week, he should be less of a problem.

I know I could declare here but I really am concerned about it becoming general knowledge. I know managers are supposed to keep it confidential, but they are only human and people do talk... Plus, I'm not even sure I want a manager to know. As I said, I wanted my workplace to be the one area of my life where bipolar doesn't intrude and take over. I have managed to keep it private for the 18 months I have been there, and I seem to be gaining some sort of control over my episodes (I just reined a mini-episode in within 2 weeks), so at the moment, I think I will stick with not declaring, because that feels right to me. If things were to change and, God forbid, I got ill, then I would reconsider, but I don't think I would ever declare having bipolar. I am not ashamed of it at all, but I think people are still quite uninformed about this illness. I would probably just declare 'a mental health issue' and leave it at that.

Thank you for your response, wise and considered as ever. Have a good weekend, GK.
I think you are doing the right thing by not declaring it. It can be a very competitive work place these days and it’s best to not give management any reason to question your competence, your fitness for the job or your sanity! Stigma is real and I think you are wise to make choices with the awareness that so little is known about bipolar and the stereotypes can be pretty scary. All they need to know is that you are a great person and a terrific employee who might need to take some time off once in awhile just like everyone else. xo, j
 
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ramboghettouk

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firstly your not covered by the disability discrimination act if you haven't declared it before starting work, theres a story mind sacked someone who didn't declare mental illness when they applied
 
G

Ginger Kitten

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Oct 2, 2020
Messages
126
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Surrey, Uk
I'll have to check that out Ramboghettouk, as that's not something my employment advisor has mentioned and I'm sure he would if he were aware of it. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Tbh though, I think it's rather looking on the dark side, I'm sure I won't have to invoke disability laws at this place: I've explained above how understanding the general manager is, as she gave me four months off due to my concerns about catching Covid (I won't go into it again here but I've given the details above).

I am grateful to everyone for your replies and will try to answer each one individually, but it's Saturday night and I'm about to chill out for the evening, so I will say good night. Have a great day tomorrow (and Monday, for those of you in the UK, like me - we've got May Day Bank Holiday over here).

Kind regards to you all, Ginger.
 
G

Ginger Kitten

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Surrey, Uk
Do you have to declare your disability to your employer? Ask the Expert - Bing video

Hi, Ramboghettouk. I couldn't find anything to corroborate your statement: 'you're not covered by the disability discrimination act if you haven't declared it before starting work'. Actually, I think that act has been replaced by the Equality Act 2010, and the above video makes it clear that you're under no obligation to declare. Plus, I think I discussed this with my employment advisor, who told me I can declare at a later date, I don't have to do it before starting - and in any case, I started 18 months ago, so if it is true, there's nothing I can do about it now... Thanks anyway for the warning, I will ask him to look into it.

Hello, Keith. It sounds as if your wife has settled on an approach that suits her, the 'need to know' basis and I am glad that she feels supported at work now she has declared - that must be a huge relief to you too, as I know our problems can impact heavily on our loved ones.

Hi Underdog, yes, I agree with you that some mental health conditions are more stigmatised than others, such as schizophrenia. I'm really not sure that bipolar fares much better, tbh, as I think the public perception of bipolar as being 'happy one minute and down the next' is way off the mark. I told a friend once and she said, "Oh that's just being a bit up and down isn't it?" It's ignorance like that that gets my back up, to be honest. That's the difficulty with bipolar, people think they know what it is but it's trivialised in the public perception when it is actually a very serious mental illness. It's one of the reasons I don't want to declare: because I feel stigma is still prevalent so I prefer to keep my bipolar status private. I don't want to test whether people will be understanding or not...

Gratefultobewell, thank you for replying. Yes, you've hit the nail on the head, it is exactly this kind of gossiping and lack of understanding that I am trying to avoid.

Thank you, JessisMe, that's a very clear and positive reply, and echoes the misgivings I myself have about declaring. I suppose it's a very personal decision and we will all have to make our choices based on our own experiences at work and in our personal lives. With all good wishes, Ginger Kitten.
 
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ramboghettouk

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i thought you don't have to declare your disability to an employer but if you don't your not covered by the provisions of the disability discrimination act, you may be right it may have been replaced by the equality act i'll have to look into it
 
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ramboghettouk

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thought i'd add i wouldn't trust a mental health worker or social worker to tell you the facts they talk with forked tongue
 
C

CabbageMama

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It’s the Equality Act 2010 in UK now. You are under no obligation to disclose, but it means your Employer doesn’t have the requirement to support you, how could they, if they didn’t know?! Keeping it to yourself is a totally personal choice and I felt the same about having work as a section of my life that was MH free. If you do end up needing support from your Employer in the future, they are still obligated to explore how best to do this and make reasonable adjustments, even if you hadn’t told them beforehand. This is what is happening with me at the moment. I didn’t tell them when I joined them, because I didn’t know. Then decided I didn’t want them to know. Have been off sick a long while now though and getting back to work would only happen if significant changes were made. The onus is on them to do all they reasonably can to get me back to work and ensure I am supported there. I have been supported by a Union rep who has ‘reminded’ HR and my Manager of exactly what they ought to be doing, why and when.
 
Wishbone

Wishbone

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England
Playing devil's advocate, what if you had a manic episode at work and started ranting and raving, maybe even destroying things. Would your employer look after you then do you think, or would they quickly give you the boot and say that they didn't know anything about you having Bipolar disorder and what you did was simply inexcusable in the workplace so bye bye?
 
H

Huntergreen

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Mar 10, 2021
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England
The protective side of me wants to say do not declare. But I’m not sure if it the best for you further down the line or not.

Maybe speak to citizens advice and see where you stand if anything was to happen.

good luck!
 

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