I have a few friends that know about my mental illness – but don’t recognize me as someone with a disability and this creates a double standard in the health system.

In regular employee training for bigger corporations such as Best Buy, Starbucks, Sobeys, etc. they include disability training in their intake process. In this process they discuss how many disabilities are not seen with the naked eye – however many employees take this with a grain of salt and treat only those with visible disabilities with the much needed accessibility requirements. In my personal life I have found that the education system is much more appropriate with the level of care for the students – however getting to the point of recognition of a disability in the elementary and high school system, is it’s own challenge.

It scares me as a person with a disability that so many of my peers are given tasks that they cannot handle…usually ending in termination, aggravated symptoms, or quitting.

For example;

Debra has Trichotillomania and is partially bald 

Steve has cancer and gets chemo treatment so he is bald 

Debra and Steve walk into work – Steve has a beanie on provided by the company to hide his balding – but Debra is wearing a $500 weave she had to purchase herself to cover her balding. She is not allowed to come into work without this wig due to “upsetting customers”, she was never reimbursed due to her symptoms (such as pulling out hair) being a “choice” rather than a physical impairment. 

Micheal is transgendered (FTM) 

Micheal is transgender and identifies with “he/his/him” pronouns. His co-workers are great when it is just them in the office – but when a customer comes into the workplace they start calling him “her/she” because he is not on testosterone therapy therefore resulting in a higher voice and a female shape. They think it would be better for the customers not to get confused or judge the workplace.  

This happens often in the corporate world – and along with the social world. Such as when a man took his own life copying the “13 Reasons Why” book and Netflix series. If you research this tragedy on social media – you will often see people calling him “stupid” and “looking for attention” yet…these people are fans of 13 Reasons Why…and empathize with the main character as a strong woman.

The difference between real life situations and TV is incredible. Many people watch social media outlets and laugh…because they cannot see how oppressed people with mental disabilities are. Often people shrug it off, laugh, or shut down the conversation as soon as it arises. But as soon as you or someone you know goes through the oppression…you learn the discrimination, fear, inequality, and unfair circumstances we live with every single day.

This is going to take time to change – it won’t happen overnight. I want to highlight a campaign with a beautiful organization known as Partners For Mental Health, who I used to work with, that holds a campaign called “Not Myself Today” discussing mental health in the workplace. This change won’t happen overnight, it might not even happen for dozens of years – but as long as we keep talking – someone is bound to listen.

 

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