Mental illness and work

Given the recent tragedy of the Germanwings flight accident and the belief that this was caused by an individual with an extensive history of mental illness, I was considering how having a mental illness needs to be dealt with in the workplace.  It is surely hard for someone struggling with mental health challenges to speak with their employer regarding their concerns.  Likely they need their employment to survive, to have the health insurance to get treatment, and to have a reason to get out of bed each day.  These realities would make one feel very vulnerable when it comes to expressing challenges related to mental illness.

Yet, if one becomes disabled to the point where they can not preform their job function or, such as happened with this co-pilot, could be a risk to others, it seems that reporting mental illness would be the responsible decision.  From my knowledge of the symptoms of mental illness and the impact that it has in individuals, the relationship that the employee has with the company/management coupled with policies that allow an individual to be able to retain employment and benefits while being responsible for their mental well being seems essential.  

It is my belief that mental illness needs to be treated as any other illness that, when unmanaged or has a severe impact in functioning, must be treated and not looked down upon.  This plays into the importance of removing the stigma associated with mental illness and companies promoting open and safe communication by employees as well as creating an environment that supports the mental wellness of it’s employees.  It is sad to consider that this co-pilot felt a level of desperation in his life that he felt justified in killing so many others to find relief from his struggles.

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