Seen a psychiastrist? Don't tell your boss

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The Independent Online
More than one-third of people with mental health problems have lost their jobs because of harassment and abuse, a survey has discovered.

Nearly 800 people were questioned by the mental health charity Mind on its 50th birthday and revealed that mental ill-health remains "the most enduring health taboo", with those living in the community facing continuing discrimination. In one case, a sufferer received less discrimination when he falsely reported a prison record than when he admitted to having a mental illness.

In the report Not Just Sticks and Stones, 34 per cent said that they were forced to resign their jobs or had been dismissed, with the some of the worst cases of unfair discrimination in nursing and social work.

One in five of the people who felt they had been unfairly dismissed from their jobs were nurses, other NHS employees or from other caring professions. Other occupations from which people said they had been unfairly sacked included library assistant, secretarial work, accountancy and journalism.

Nearly seven out of ten had been put off applying for jobs for fear of unfair treatment and, unsurprisingly, the majority had concealed their psychiatric history for fear of losing their job. "I had a cleaning job for three years, but when I mentioned that I had an appointment with a psychiatrist I received a letter the next week to say my services were no longer required," said a woman who had been diagnosed with agoraphobia.

A 30-year-old man with obsessive compulsive disorder said: "On two occasions I lied when I applied for jobs. On both these occasions I said that my two-and-a-half-year absence from employment was due to a term spent in prison. I was accepted for the first and shortlisted for the second. Whenever I have been truthful about my psychiatric past I have never been accepted for a job."

Life for the mentally ill is equally traumatic at home: nearly half of those surveyed had been abused or harassed in public with 14 per cent physically attacked. A quarter felt at risk of attack within their own home. Several people said they had had windows broken or stones thrown at them.

Both children and adults ridiculed people in public but the main culprits were usually children.

"The level if discrimination revealed by this report is staggering," said Judi Clements, Mind's national director. "It confirms our worst fears that mental ill-health is most enduring health taboo, but yet one of the most commonly experienced health problems. Despite the fact that one in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem this year, this report uncovers how ingrained, entrenched and debilitating attitudes towards mental ill-health still are."

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