Bipolar in the workplace
Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world, according to the World Health Organization, and depression will soon be the leading cause of sick leave in the workplace.
Awareness and accommodation from employers is crucial and yet stigma prevails. Most companies do not have a mental health policy. Employees lose their jobs over diminished functioning – while if they had flexibility to adapt to the workplace during episodes they wouldn’t work incapacitated while not informing their supervisors of the issue, out of fear.
Instead, the work environment can be a place of support. People with depression and bipolar disorder are more than capable of working between episodes. A healthy environment reduces stress and triggers, maintaining emotional balance and preventing relapse. Simple things like installing full spectrum lighting that mimics natural sunlight (lack of sunlight can lead to depression in bipolar and Seasonal Affective Disorder, and light therapy is also used as treatment) can improve mental health not only for the afflicted, but all employees. Flextime is another solution that lowers stress and encourages health care access – at no cost to the employer.
Close to 20% of the population will experience depression. Anyone can be affected. Approximately 5% fit into the spectrum of bipolar disorders, including some of our brightest talent. Denying employment is detrimental to society as well as damaging to the individual. (The Americans With Disabilities Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms both prohibit discrimination based on mental disability, as does legislation around the world.)
A recent report on mental health in the workplace offers resources and spotlights the success story of Sandy Naiman, a reporter for the Toronto Sun. It examines ways her bipolar disorder was relevant and how she was integrated into the workplace to lead a long, award-winning career.
Kiume, S. (2006). Bipolar in the workplace. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 22, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2006/01/23/bipolar-in-the-workplace/