Mental Health Stigma and Discrimination within the Workplace

Introduction

“In my twenty one years of living, I always thought that I was born to do great things. Those great things include making a change and getting people to view things from my perspective. Everyone I have ever met has told me that I possess the potential, talent, and commitment needed in order for me to succeed and achieve my goals. I am really just “too nice” for my own good at times because I make it my responsibility to help others in their time of need, even if the favor isn’t reciprocated, I just enjoy helping others. I do believe that I could achieve and be successful although, I been having trouble seeing the outcomes of my future. Every day I struggle to be successful because of all these obstacles in my way. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2 and borderline personality disorder, two disorders that constantly affect my mood. It has been approximately six months, that I haven’t been attending therapy, haven’t been taking medication and I haven’t called in for this borderline treatment program I was supposed to enroll in.

Although I did attend one session at the Wellness Center but, it was too late for me to take a medical leave. This is because for me school comes first, I know that it’s been extra hard because instead of taking care of myself, I am trying to focus on my studies so that I could graduate. As a result, my work and school performance has been affected considering that because my emotions are not necessarily stable, I am constantly depressed fighting to get out of bed every morning also, contemplating suicide, self-harming and engaging in other self- destructive behaviors. It is hard because it’s like I want to function but, I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. I can’t participate as much because It’s like I’m physically in class but, my mind is somewhere else and even if I do pay attention, my memory is literally almost nonexistent because I cannot remember many things, or write essays and function like I used to.

These past semesters were hard and I had to admit I have asked for many extensions but, I feel like I always had caring professors. I feel like struggle builds character and considering how much I have struggled to succeed, earning my bachelor’s degree after this semester would be like a dream come true, God knows I went through a lot just to obtain it. I didn’t have to disclose my mental illness but, I chose to in order to provide you with my story. I am sharing with you something that is personal to me, to inform you that although people have a type of mental illness that they could still live functioning lives and achieve their goals as they rise through the obstacles set upon them.” – Rachel Urena

I’m writing about the stigma and discrimination that people with mental health face within the workplace and educational settings. This matters because I believe that mental health is something that people should pay more attention to, considering that just because you do not see a physical wound, does not mean that a person is not suffering. The topic of mental illness is always avoided because not everyone is aware of what mental illness really is and how it can affect the people around you. Anybody could be affected by a mental illness and it can interfere with the way you function in your everyday life as it can affect your mood, the way you think, your behavior and can cause you emotional and physical problems. I believe that mental health is something people should be discussing about but, instead it is being stigmatized by people who do not comprehend that mental illness can be crippling especially when a person is depressed. By shedding light to mental health in the workplace, I feel like the stigma, discrimination and harassment that people with mental illness endure could decrease as people such as managers and coworkers could get a better insight on what it’s like to have mental illness and why it consequently affect a person’s work performance. Mental health awareness isn’t always given much attention to but, considering the amount of people it is affecting, mental health should be on the same platform as other causes, such as LGBTQ, breast cancer, women’s rights, etc.

I hypothesize that the survey participants will be aware on the topic of mental illness but, will not be aware on the stigmas and discrimination that individuals with mental illness face. My research will show how mental illness can prohibit people from living a normal life and making true connections. Considering that individuals who have visible mental illness have a harder time integrating with society because their illness controls them and they cannot tell the difference between the expected behavior that society puts on them and the expected behavior controlled by their illness. My research question and hypothesis relates to law and society literature because I believe that mental health has a lot to do with society as society is responsible for the stigmas considering that they tend to judge, shame, discriminate against, harass and demonize someone only because they have a mental illness and are not viewed as “normal”. Therefore, I will be writing this paper in order to educate those who avoid the topic of mental illness because mental health is important and it should be given more attention to, considering that anybody surrounding you could be suffering from a mental illness that he or she does not speak about. Somebody you know could have a mental illness maybe in your family, or your friends, your colleagues from work, your classmates from school, your neighbors, (etc.). This relates to my research question and hypothesis considering, I am conducting this study in hopes of changing society’s perspectives on mental illness and finding ways to eliminate the stigma and discrimination once and for all, considering that we have to put an end to discrimination based solely on mental illness.

Short Roadmap

This research paper will be broken up into parts in order to keep it organized. The introduction will help test my hypothesis considering that I have introduced my hypothesis and research question. I also, provided my story in the introduction for this purpose. The methodology would help test my hypothesis considering that I have introduced the methods that I had used as I conducted my study, and I provided the limitations of my research. Which is necessary when discussing about my hypothesis, I even provided more information on my survey. The literature review portion will help me test my hypothesis considering that I will be providing the socio legal theories needed in order for me to do my research. I will be discussing how authors use these legal theories in their articles, which has an essential part when considering in my hypothesis.  The legal/topic background will help me test my hypothesis considering that these are the sources that I am using in order to provide evidence in favor of my socio legal theory. Therefore, it will benefit met when testing my hypothesis. In results of data collection, I will be collecting the data and identifying themes in order to test my hypothesis, considering that this data is needed as it plays a very important role as I developed this research. Now, in analysis my hypothesis will finally be discussed considering that everything will be finish and that all the collected data would be presented. This means that here is where I determine whether or not, my hypothesis was correct or not. Lastly, the conclusion helps test my hypothesis because it will provide you as the reader, a summarization on my topic and my hypothesis.

Methodology

In the methodology section, I will be describing my method of research which involves me conducting an anonymous interview, which will include pseudonyms for the protection of the ten participants. I made the survey this way to protect the identities of the participants considering that the information they will provide to answer the questions I have set could and may be too personal to share but, because this survey is about mental illness and people’s personal experiences with it, I decided that it would be best to make it anonymous considering that I want the truth on their experiences. These interviews were specifically designed for me not only to test my hypothesis but, for me to get a better insight to see whether or not individuals are educated on different types of mental illness and on what mental illness actually is. I also, wanted to test whether or not these individuals were aware of the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness face while providing their own life examples, so I could test in what ways they are similar and what we can do to stop these stigmas and discrimination. Collecting this data will not be easy considering that I am not that good at conducting interviews because at times I get nervous but, considering that I will be using google forms in order to conduct these interviews, it shouldn’t be so bad. I came up with these ten questions so, that the participants responses would answer my hypothesis but, do so using their own knowledge and experiences considering that they are open ended questions that do not necessarily require one specific answer. I am also using secondary research from various articles that I will providing in my paper and I will be providing my experiences as well, considering that I have struggled with mental health stigmas and discrimination in the workplace and educational settings.

The limitations founded in this research would be that there is a limited amount of people I will be interviewing, therefore those ten people only make an essentially small fraction of today’s population and I understand that there ten people selected at random, may or may not have experience stigmas and discrimination or do not essentially have a mental illness to begin with. But, that’s why I said “if you or someone you love” to indicate to the participants that if they do not feel comfortable speaking of themselves or if they haven’t had any experiences that they can use the experiences of someone who is dear to them and has struggled with stigmas and discrimination within their work and school environment. I made it this way because any person can experience this whether they are young, old, men, women etc., mental illness can affect anybody. Although, there are other limitations considering that people could be dishonest, some people may or may not understand the questions and interpret them in other ways, some people may skip questions and other’s just don’t know how to answer a question or don’t think the question and their answer through. Regardless of all this, I am aware that all of these things can happen during the time that participants take the survey and I would just have to see how things play out and make myself available for additional questions that they may have while taking the survey.

Literature Review

In the process of conducting my research, I realized that it was better for me to use the Constitutive View Theory instead of the Legal Consciousness theory but, both could be used for my topic. In the Constitutive View Theory, previous definitions of law are reconstructed in order to portray how law shapes everyday life, as people are viewed as legal subjects and their daily practices are already molded by the law. This means that although law is shaped everyday due to prior cases or previous legal concepts and definitions, it is constantly being changed in order to adapt to our surroundings and our daily practices. Individuals with mental illness could be viewed as legal subjects because they are capable of holding rights and obligations. But, they struggle to adapt to some of societies practices which causes society to have negative views on mental illness, which later leads to stigmas and discrimination within the workplace or school place. Because these previous laws are reconstructed, I feel like we could continue to change laws in order to suit individuals with mental illness but, just because we change these laws does not mean that people’s thoughts on mental illness would change as well, that’s where legal consciousness comes in. I say this because not everyone understands or is educated on the topic of mental health and their ignorance causes them to negatively view these individuals as they are judged by many. In the Legal Consciousness theory, which means what people do or say about the law and how the law and its meanings are understood by individuals who give awareness to these legal ideas and views. This means that individual’s legal consciousness conforms to societal laws such laws range from people following traffic laws, students following campus rules or doctors following medical procedurals and so forth. The author’s use both the Legal Consciousness theory and Constitutive View Theory in their articles, considering that most of these articles talk about the stigmas and discrimination that people with mental illness experience

The article, ‘In Their Own Words: How Ordinary People Construct the Legal World’, the author makes the main point of this article to be the illustration of that law. As she states that the law is something abstract but, it is used by individuals to handle the everyday problems of their lives. Law is a social construct established by society to regulate people’s actions and maintain order amongst themselves. This means that in order for laws to be created society had to agree for these rules to be enforced, and in order to ensure that this happens, society agreed to have those who do not obey the norms and choose to challenge them are to be punished. Individuals are to be punished for breaking the law because people need to experience the law and the weight it holds in order to believe that these set of rules do exist and that punishment is to be inflicted if necessary. People have their own perceptions of the law and these perceptions often change as the law itself changes with each passing day. Laws could be either against your interests or in your favor but, people are the ones who give the law power considering that they choose to follow it. In this article the author states “By enacting legality in daily life, ordinary people give flesh and meaning to what is otherwise an ‘abstract but binding form’.” This means that ordinary people are the ones who give meaning to the law considering that the law could be viewed as something abstract because it exists but, it does not have a physical appearance. Although, this is true people still follow the law as they are aware that they have legal obligations and that the law exists. In class, we discussed that people give power to the law because they choose to follow it and law enforcement obviously enforces the laws. People give power to the law, we are the reason the law is constantly changing and being reconstructed due to the experiences we have encountered. People also choose to rebel against it. This article relates to law and society literature because it speaks about how law was established by society, and how society was also responsible for putting law into practice. I say this because we follow these laws and we enforce them onto the public. This article describes the relationship between law and society, considering that we as a society need laws in order to maintain order and to abstain from encountering chaos. Like I stated before, laws provide us with structure and they will constantly change the way we think and what we do. This article also relates to the conversation of legal consciousness because people need to be aware of the laws and realize that as law changes, so does their perceptions of law.

In ‘Exploring the nature of stigmatizing beliefs about depression and help-seeking: Implications for reducing stigma’, the author’s conducted a study similar to mine and they incorporated the Legal Consciousness Theory considering that their study was conducted to find different solutions to reduce the stigma by providing various community members perceptions and beliefs on how they view depression. Legal Consciousness Theory, was used in this research because they were specifically trying to use people’s perceptions on the topic of depression to conclude their research. In this article, they concluded that in order to reduce the stigma of depression these interventions “should target attributions of blame; reduce avoidance of depressed people; label depression as a ‘health condition’ rather than ‘mental illness’; and improve responses of help-sources”. This means that in order to ensure the elimination of these stigmas and the discrimination that comes along with them, people of the community should become more aware of mental illness and previous perceptions of mental illness should be abandoned considering that these stigmas would not be resolved if we do not destroy this idea, as the author stated, “believe depressed people are responsible for their own condition, are undesirable to be around, and may be a threat”.

In ‘Stigma and discrimination of mental health problems: workplace implications. Occupational Medicine’, the author’s conducted a study that tested the concept of stigma and they concluded that it is made of three problems, which include knowledge (ignorance or misinformation), attitudes (prejudice) and behavior (discrimination). These three concepts formed the framework for their study. Considering the topics they have chosen, one can conclude that this article has to do with the Legal Consciousness Theory, because the authors are describing the perceptions of people without mental illness who stigmatize and discriminate against those who do have mental illnesses in the workplace. They recorded their knowledge, attitudes and behavior, in order to prove that the stigma and discrimination indeed exists, and they determined that there are four assumptions that were made about workplace stigma. As the author stated, these assumptions include “(1) people with mental health problems lack the competence to meet the demands of work, (2) people with mental health problems are dangerous or unpredictable in the workplace, (3) working is not healthy for people with a mental health problem and (4) providing employment for people with mental illness is an act of charity. These assumptions vary in their salience and intensity based on a range of organizational, individual and societal factors.” This means that these four assumptions are indeed part of the cause, considering that they are untrue, they are biased and are a product of the stigmatization and discrimination within the workplace. People with mental illness are capable of many things and they are human too, they should be able to work without people making these assumptions about them, considering that many people with mental illness can function at work and educational settings.

In the article, ‘Idle rights: Employees’ rights consciousness and the construction of sexual harassment policies’, the author states “In this constitutive theory of law, then, even as legality shapes the meaning of everyday life, ordinary people reshape the meaning of legality as they deploy legal meanings in new settings.” (Marshall, Idle Rights). This means that such obligations and expectations that the law requires from ordinary people are constantly being reshaped considering that due to their experiences and daily practices, new legal meanings are constantly being produced. In Idle Rights, they speak about sexual harassment policies and how employees are “aware” of them. This means that employee’s come to work with an idea of how they are supposed to be treated based on office policies and some of them still get sexually harassed in their workplace. Which then causes them to seek change to prevent future encounters with sexual violence. In the article the story of Kimberly Ellerth sheds light to the harassing behavior women are subjected to in the workplace only, because they are forced to comply in order to “keep their job”. This causes the woman to give into her supervisor or manager’s sexual demands but, this conduct shouldn’t be tolerated because it violates any woman’s rights considering that are forced to submit to something they are not necessarily comfortable with. In the story, it shows that women are entitled to rights and although Burlington has an anti-sexual harassment policy, she chose to avoid her abuser and only told a few people she trusted. The author basically says that legal rules and rights concerning the topic of sexual harassment are what shape a women’s experiences considering they complain because they are being discriminated against and their rights are being violated as they are targeted based off on sex. This relates to law and society literature considering that just like the employment rights of mental health workers are violated at work due to these stigma and discrimination, and in this article the rights of these women are being violated and the office policies are not being upheld. This is important because it shows that there are many factors that contribute to employment discrimination and it doesn’t matter what your gender is or what form of mental illness you may have, you could still be subjected to workplace discrimination and/or sexual harassment because of this.

In the article ‘After Legal Consciousness’,  article basically explains how an individual’s legal consciousness conforms to societal laws such laws range from people following traffic laws, students following campus rules or doctors following medical procedurals and so forth. Although, some laws set upon by society are good there are laws that many individuals do not agree with for various reasons. Such reasons include their religion, their culture, their values, their beliefs and so forth. This causes individuals to question legal authority because they do not know whether or not to follow the laws or go against in what they belief in. The author states “Legal consciousness cannot be understood independently of its role in the collective construction of legality- how forms of consciousness combine to constitute ideological or hegemonic legality.” By this the author means that people are the ones who are responsible for establishing legality and although legal consciousness does play significant role in this construction, that it is the diversity of these people that help ‘constitute ideological or hegemonic legality’. The article says that even if these people question authority that doing so will only be limited, considering that those people are only a part of a big society who inhabit heterogeneous populations. This article relates to law and society literature because it shows how the idea of law and society was sought to be two different concepts but, then it was discovered that law and society are actually very similar. I say this because laws are constructed by society and people’s moralities are what define what is essentially perceived as legal and illegal. This relates to the topic of legal consciousness considering that the heterogeneous populations are who distinguish right from wrong. This article relates to my paper because it shows that laws are socially constructed from individual’s ideologies. I say this because it relates to the constitutive view theory, considering that people are “legal subjects” and their daily practices are molded by law. Since the law is shaped by society, because society is multicultural, our laws are as well culturally constructed. This could relate to my hypothesis considering that people with mental illness are part of this heterogeneous society, which would mean that they should have a say in the construction of society’s acts of stigmatization and discrimination.

In ‘Narrating Social Structure: Stories of Resistance to Legal Authority’, the main point of this article was viewed to be the revelation of the idea that law creates social structure but, because the law depends on the values, beliefs and behaviors of individuals, not every individual necessarily agrees with the law and they often feel as if the law is against them. When such emotions like these emerge, acts of rebellion occur considering that the people who tend to engage in resistant practices such as revolutions, strikes, boycotts (etc.) are typically the ones responsible for changing the course of history and adjusting laws to their needs. The relationship between resistance, power and structure basically describes how the act of resistance occurs when the public is opposed to the way society if structured and feel as if society has the power to change a law in favor of their interests, then they should revolt in legal or non-legal avenues to change the law. This also gives the individual the chance to exercise their own individual power as a person within the society whether it’s against power, norms or authority. Individuals who oppose to laws could also take their arguments to the courts, which benefits individuals with the same views considering that courts at times decide cases based on precedent. This article relates to law and society because although we need laws for guidance so, society would function without chaos occurring, it says that not everyone is going to agree with the law therefore there is some resistance when it comes to following the rules. If someone does not like something, they would try to change it and this also applies to laws, I feel like as society is constantly changing through the years, people’s perceptions of law change as well. This could affect the laws because laws provide social structure, therefore in order to accommodate the society in which we live today, we must adjust laws to favor our needs. For example, Gay marriage, not everyone is for it but, because nowadays “love is love”, meaning that you are free to love anyone regardless of their gender or sex, many people fought in order to change this law. This included years of resisting authority and the law but, it was worth it at the end because history was made. This article would relates to my hypothesis considering that if the LGBT community managed to change a law that they did not agree with and just like individuals with mental health they are discriminated against and stigmatized.

Legal/Topic Background

In ‘Being open in academia: A personal narrative of mental illness and disclosure’, the author provides us with her autobiographical reflection, as it portrays the outcomes on her decision to disclose her mental illness following the stages of her career path, from her first time being diagnosed to being a professor. The author thought about her decision to disclose as “personal” and “political” as she discloses that she struggles with Bipolar Disorder. As I stated in my introduction, I struggle with Bipolar Disorder as well, therefore I am fully aware of the struggle that took place before reaching her goals. Although, she considers this disorder to be a “disability”, she didn’t want to hide it anymore considering that she wanted relief, she was hiding her illness from everyone because it was not visible. To everyone else she appeared normal but, just because you cannot see a bruise, cut, burn and so forth, it doesn’t mean that the person is not in pain and that they did not get hurt. That’s essentially how mental health works, it is part of your physical health because it has the power to affect a person’s physical wellbeing as well but, people believe that because you cannot see it, that it is not there. I believe that this is why the author chose to disclose and why she stated that disclosing her illness would be a political issue as well, because in order for all mental health to be destigmatized, people need to disclose especially the ones with less visible mental illnesses. I say this because one of the biggest stigmas related to mental illness would be that only people with visible symptoms have mental illness, which is not true. A person could have a form of mental illness with no visible symptoms and because they have the ability to perform and function, nobody would ever noticed that something is wrong, because that’s just how society has made it to be. The author wants individuals to use disclosure as a method of success. She states “…disclosure of mental illness in academia provided academic freedom. Instead of living in fear that my mental health status would be discovered, I was able to devote more energy to productivity and mental wellness. My disclosure enhanced, instead of inhibited, my academic performance due to positive mentoring at all stages of my academic career.” I honestly agree with the author because, if you disclose it, the educational setting can provide services that can monitor you and help you without jeopardizing your academic performance, considering that you wouldn’t have to do everything on your own. From experience, this would be something good because professor’s give you extra time considering that life happens and they are aware that although there are due dates, that sometimes you will need an extension because that’s just how mental health works, at times you just need more time but, you get things done. I believe that if people disclose then the school could provide them with counseling services and medications while at the same time going to their classes and performing their student duties.

As I kept reading the auto bibliography, I came across a quote that I can honestly identify with, she stated “Those who have bipolar disorder often feel like they can manage everything on their own. It is part manic delusion and part based on the cyclical nature of bipolar disorder. Sometimes, you are fine. Sometimes, you are fantastic. Sometimes, you want nothing more than to sleep and never wake up. It is unpredictable, but the highs can be intoxicating—as if being on drugs”. I feel like that’s true in relation to my experience as well, considering that having Bipolar Disorder is truly unpredictable, you just never know the mood you’re going to wake up in and you try to manage everything by yourself, only to realize that you actually need help. But, the author does state that you could be Bipolar but, still be productive. People with mental illness are the legal subjects in charge of changing the way other people view us and the laws formed in favor or against us, if we are also a part of society then we should also have a say when it comes to giving meanings to the law considering that we are the one’s struggling with mental illness and spreading awareness on these illnesses. The author shared a few coping strategies that helped her manage her disorder, these methods were established by The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI, suggests for individuals with mental illness to become an expert on their disorder, recognize early symptoms, engage in a treatment and develop a plan, find support, and get healthy, get rest. Based on the author’s experience and incorporating my own, these coping strategies have the potential to actually stabilize an individual considering that once you become aware of your disorder and once you let go of your pride and accept help, things will get better considering you’ll be assisted by a mental health professional, who can guide you so, you wouldn’t have to struggle alone.

In ‘The Scarlet Letter of Mental Illness: De-stigmatizing Bipolar Disorder’, the author states “When I make the confession, “I am Bipolar,” I immediately associate myself with any number of negative perceptions surrounding the disorder. Invariably, these perceptions usually have to do with the most severe forms of the illness, with symptoms including psychosis, relational dysfunction, and recklessly compulsive behavior.” this implies that the author just like me, has Bipolar Disorder and often associated with society’s negative perceptions regarding the disorder.  When society thinks about Bipolar Disorder, they think about the most serious cases, the author stated “Specifically, people fear those with a Bipolar diagnosis because Bipolar is often associated with the psychotic features common to Schizophrenia.

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