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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 24 January, 2018
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Dear Fifi: Should I disclose my mental health history in an interview?

Back at it again with the relationship and work advice, it’s DailyEdge.ie’s advice columnist Fiona Hyde.

dearfifiheader

Summer has arrived with beautiful cherry blossoms, even though it feels like someone needs to remind the weather.

Here’s some advice for free, men of Ireland: no matter how hot it gets this year, it’s never appropriate to take your top off in the city centre. Leave it to the beach, my friends.

Not everyone agreed with my advice to the troubled boyfriend last week. That’s totally fair – healthy debate on social media and in the comments section is welcomed. The more voices in the mix the better. As usual, just try and keep ‘er civil.

Let’s go.

dearfifibar

Dear Fifi, 

I am a bit of a mess. I suffer with serious enough depression and anxiety that I’ve been off work for some time but I am thankfully starting to see the light after a very dark few years. In that time I’ve changed jobs and ended up having to resign from the new one after only 7 months (2 of which were sick leave) as it wasn’t the right fit and I jumped at it without fully appreciating the work involved and my inability to get it done because of the toll my poor mental health has been having on me. So now I’m jobless and looking for a total change in direction career wise and I am kinda excited about the possibilities.

However, I’m wondering what you think I should share with my potential future employers when they see I was in the previous job for so short a period and they see my CV?

I’m not ashamed of my health problems and speak openly about them if asked, but we still have a long way to go to have full acceptance of these things and I don’t want to jeopardise my career prospects. At the same time, I don’t want to lie by omission about an ongoing health issue that I feel an employer has the right to know about. You don’t get cured from these health issues, you simply learn to live with it and work around it, so the reality is that despite my best intentions, I may have a relapse in the future.

Firstly, my heart goes out to you over your dark time. Fair play to you for seeking help with your mental health issues and for getting yourself to this better place. You refer to yourself early on as “a mess” – I hope that while you’re exploring your career options again, you’re still in contact with the supports that got you to this place on an ongoing basis. Put yourself and your health first always, and the rest will fall into place.

I wanted to be able to offer some properly constructive and practical career advice, so I contacted an experienced HR specialist who kindly agreed to help me answer this question for you. I’ve passed on a lot of what she said verbatim, because I think that professional advice is worth a lot to you here and will hopefully put your mind at ease as you getting into your job-hunt.

If things were as they should be, we’d all be upfront about the struggles we’ve weathered and won, no matter the type. However, we can’t pretend utopia into existence – and risk ourselves as collateral as we do it.

My HR source agrees: “In an ideal world, disclosing a mental health issue should be no different to talking about a broken wrist. However, although society’s views have definitely changed for the better, some employers may still feel there is stigma attached. ”

I recommend that you do not raise any previous health challenges at interviews; note that this applies generally to all health problems and not just to mental health issues. You are under no obligation to disclose anything. You were sick, you’re better now and you’re moving forward. Instead, focus on the purpose of the interview – it’s your opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the position and to explain how your experience and skills will enable you to excel in the role.

She continued: “You will certainly be asked why you resigned after 7 months and you should find a positive slant when explaining why you left – perhaps you are very diligent and took on too much, but you learned how to set and communicate realistic goals from this experience. Explain that it was your decision to leave and you’re keen to find a job that’s a better fit for you, where you’ll stay for the long term and became a valued employee.”

You are right not to be ashamed of your health problems and it’s great that you’re excited about a new direction for your career.

“Finding a new job that you like will be be an important part of staying well. But if you do have a relapse in future and your work starts to suffer, disclosing your problem may help you to explain the situation and get assistance. There may be some flexibility to structure your job in order to minimise stress and it will be easier for an employer to do that if they know about your history.”

Put yourself first – but never be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You seem like a rigorously honest person who wants to do the right thing above all else. I’m sure you’ll make a great, conscientious and thoughtful employee wherever you wind up. Look at it this way: this is just another element of the interview you’ll be able to prepare an impressive response for.

Good luck in the exciting new chapter!

dearfifibar

Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

Check out previous advice>

 

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