10 photographs that show the stigma faced by those with mental health issues

You wouldn’t think twice about calling in sick to work or missing a lecture if you were throwing up or had a crippling headache — but what about if the health problem you were facing was mental rather than physical?

UK workers are routinely concealing their mental health conditions behind physical sickness, according to new research by the Priory Group.

The research has found that sufferers are choosing to hide their conditions behind physical illnesses, out of fear of being stigmatised — or not being believed at all.

Some fear that they will lose their reputations or be fired if the fact that they’re suffering from a mental health issues gets out — and some even claim that this has already happened.

Others worry that mental health problems wouldn’t be kept confidential at work in the same way that physical ones would.

The result is a huge number of people making up excuses for being off work — migraines, back ache, glandular fever — rather than risking alienating those around them.

The Priory Group gave patients a chance to share their experiences by asking them “have you ever had to call in sick because of a mental health condition, but told work you were suffering from something else? If so, why did you make up another illness?”

The resulting photographs show a clear pattern: depression, anxiety and panic, all made worse by having to lie in order to avoid being judged.

By creating these images, the Priory Group hope businesses will create a more open and accepting environment for mental health sufferers in the workplace.

Workplace mental health stigma is something successful businessman Paul Booth, who lives with bipolar disorder, has frequently encountered in his working career. He now campaigns for an overhaul in workplace mental health.

Paul says: “A lot of people who didn’t have a diagnosed condition would come to me and say, ‘you’re so brave. I’ve got a condition but I don’t tell anybody because I know it would kill my career’. That was mentioned to me numerous times.

“In South Africa, as long as it was out in the open, it was like there was no elephant in the room, nothing waiting to come out. It would be very difficult to be that open about my condition in the UK. I think I would struggle to get a job, to be honest.

“All these people on the mental health spectrum add colour to the diversity of our species, of our life. We have pushed people to the sidelines because of their mental health condition. It’s about time we got the dialogue out and people start saying, these people are assets, they’re not liabilities to us. They are just us.”

Dr Richard Bowskill, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Priory Hospital Brighton and Hove, adds that: “There’s a huge amount of stigma out there, especially in the workplace. I’ve had numerous cases where people have been sacked because of their depression; they’ve been discriminated against because of a mental illness.

“I think the big thing is the impact of stigma. People generally say that the stigma of having a diagnosed mental illness can be as bad as the symptoms that they actually experience. They compare it with other illnesses, for example the stigma of cancer or heart problems — the stigma of mental illness is still very much higher.”

Originally published at https://www.thenationalstudent.com.