Did you know that Mental Illness is among the illnesses and disabilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act? Not many people know it. The United States government covers a lot under the ADA. It includes mental health disorders that fall within the guidelines of the ADA but it does not list specific mental illnesses.
Under the ADA, a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment.
It is great that the ADA can cover mental illness, but the scary part is that you have to tell others that you have it. Telling your co-workers or your boss can be the hardest. There is no right or wrong answer about telling your boss or others that you have a mental disorder. Although, if suddenly you are unreliable, your work drops off, and you no longer are the team player you used to be, then your boss will notice.
The ADA protects you from being fired from your job or rejected for employment. It also provides accommodations at work. Again, this is helpful, but you have to be willing to reveal your diagnosis. It most likely will depend on the overall benefit to you at work. Some people with mental health impairments will have a disability under the ADA and some will not.
The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, mental illness will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide, after heart disease. Right now major mental disorders cost the nation at least $193 billion annually in lost earnings alone, according to a new study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, and the direct cost of depression to the United States in terms of lost time at work is estimated at 172 million days yearly.
Here is a list of the possible mental disorders that could fit under the ADA. Notice I said “could” because the decision is based on your symptoms and the effect they have on your ability to do your job.
I want to see a national dialog about mental health that helps employers to understand the importance of having an employee who is both physically and mentally well. In order for employees to benefit from the ADA they have to be willing to share their diagnosis. Sadly, it is still a reality in America today that people with mental illness are somehow labeled or looked upon differently. I am proud to say that we are making strides in this country to change those stereotypes. I only wish it could happen faster. Putting mental health problems on an equal footing with physical illnesses will, in the end, benefit all.
Click here to read one woman’s struggle to decide to reveal her Bipolar Disorder diagnosis.
This blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.