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Mental Illness: A Hidden Disability

We live in a society where things often have to be seen to be believed. But how does this affect people with mental health issues?

In the UK, individuals with disabilities are protected under the Disability Discrimination Act. The DDA defines disability as "a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his [or her] ability to carry out normal day to day activities". How does one prove “disability” when it is invisible such as the case of someone with mental illness?

I bring this up because of a gentleman who was recently offered a position with a prestigious global company (based in the UK) but when he accepted the offer, he also disclosed his history of mental illness. For some reason, the job offer was suddenly withdrawn. He was told there was an unexpected hiring freeze. While you may think this is an issue of disclosure, it is not. It’s actually a question of corporate discrimination. Why? Because the gentleman filed a claim of discrimination under the DDA but before the government can consider whether the job offer was withdrawn because of a recruitment freeze, or because of his disclosure of mental illness, they first have to determine if he qualifies under the DDA as someone with a disability. He must now provide extensive medical proof of his having a mental illness.

Whether you are located in the UK, the US or anywhere in the world, what this story tells us is that we all may need to re-consider how we think about disability and specifically those with mental health conditions. This is especially the case when it comes to workforce/workplace practices.