a call for social justice and STigma-Free Workplaces: WE get fired because of our mental illnesses BUT only we deal with STIGMA'S POISONous WRATH AND true depths of ENSUING SUFFERINGRead Now
resilience built up in childhood. check. higher education underway. check. then, a series of weird events started happening.
I had a very good childhood with loving parents and friends. I was bullied a little at school. But that gave me some resilience and taught me self dependence at a very early age.
I was a straight A student and excelled at my studies. I got my Bachelors and then pursued a Masters in Computer Science from the best college in India.
Being an INFJ, I was always a self-starter and figured out solutions to problems myself.
Then, a series of weird events started to happen to me.
In my last semester of graduate school, other students started noticing a change in my behavior. A calm, introverted kid was now fighting with everyone, verbally, not physically. I was much more irritable and got angry at the slightest of things.
I was unaware at that time of exactly what was happening.
i soldiered on, landing my first professional job. But, quickly burnout after being expected to work long hours, becoming nonfunctional for months.
I started my internship at a game development company in 2014 where I was expected to work long hours. I was not performing at optimal levels and after 6 months, I experienced my first severe burnout.
I came home severely depressed.
My parents supported me. I was nonfunctional for months.
My neighbors started noticing I was not getting out of the house. They did their best to try and talk to me.
With that said, being in episodes spoiled my relationships with almost everyone. Yet, still I couldn't really figure out what exactly was happening to me until I had a lightbulb moment.
My Lightbulb Moment. I realized I needed treatment to survive. And, I got THAT AND MORE: a bipolar 2 diagnosis and A LITHUM Prescription. check.
I was lost in the darkness, struggling to figure out what was wrong with me.
Grasping at straws, I went online and started reading and joined online forums. I read the DSM. I did research. I read blogs.
That all led me to finally going to see a psychiatrist. After asking me questions during a one-hour consultation, he diagnosed me with Bipolar 2 and put me on Lithium.
After three months of Lithium, I got a little stability and decided to give work another go.
back to work ONLY TO HAVE my hard-fought stability snatched away. CEO discovers MY bipolar disorder. I'm fired.
I got a job as a Junior System Admin two blocks from my house and worked there for almost 2 years. It was a mid-sized company with 150 employees. I had very good relationships with everyone and helped everyone with their computer issues.
Then, the CEO finds out about my bipolar disorder and fires me two weeks later.
Even to this day, I still get calls from the IT department asking for help with IT problems. I still offer give solutions.
I Enter a stigma-free workplace at last. My stability, balance and SENSE OF worthiness RETURN.
Then, I got a job at a chain of salons as an IT Manager. It had 3 branches for which I was managing the entire IT and digital marketing.
This time, however, my boss was very supportive and helped me in every way to become productive. But due to COVID, he had to shut down two of the branches and laid off people.
But he has always stayed in touch, even to this day.
"To me stigma-free workplaces are built on foundations of people understanding the need for inclusivity and empathy.
My third and current job was found via LinkedIn. I applied to a Denver-based company and the Founder interviewed me for an IT Manager position but gave me the Project Manager position.
I got a few episodes during this job but my company supported me when they knew I had bipolar disorder.
Medications Taken to date to see me through this journey. Did I have to go through all this?
I had seen a severe form of illness but I could manage it and most people couldn't tell (or were not telling me) that I have such a severe condition. I had taken almost every medication over the years, which is generally prescribed for bipolar.
I can't help but wonder if my journey would have not been as arduous if not been for stigma in the workplace; and if perhaps I would have found the perfect cocktail for treating my bipolar sooner. You see it is not easy or particularly fun to have to try all these different medications as you cycle up and down and as society pushes us up and down with stigma.
My most irritable symptoms were hand tremors and throbbing headaches. I still have these.
How do I COPE? BY FIGHTING BACK. AND BY GIVING BACK TO OUR COMMUNITY.
Cancer doesn't just go away, nor does bipolar disorder. You have to find methods in order to survive. I learnt coping mechanisms for my illness at a very early stage. I could tell when my moods were swinging and took immediate action. Other coping mechanisms included:
But, the best coping mechanism for me has been and still is helping people. That naturally lifts your depression. I have been helping people for many many years with their IT stuff and with my mental health advocacy work.
LIKE AIR POLLUTION, STIGMA IN OUR WORKPLACES IS POISONING US CAUSING BOTH PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL SUFFERING. LIKE A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT, WE ARE FILING A SOCIAL ACTION LAWSUIT. WE ARE TIRED OF BEING FIRED.
Most recently, I have become the Chair in India for Accelerating Social Good's social-justice campaign, Accelerating Mental Wellness, to co-create stigma free workplaces built on a foundation of empathy with needed mental health programs and supports in place.
Why? Because it is unjust for people like me to get fired simply because I have bipolar disorder.
I see this as analogous to a class action lawsuit in America. Like a social action lawsuit in a way.
People are poisoned by stigma. In a class action lawsuit, I understand people are literally poisoned by pollution so they come together and file a lawsuit to get reimbursed for medical bills and for their suffering, the punitive damages.
But we are not filing a class action lawsuit. We are not taking this to court.
We are taking it to the people. We are taking it to to you. We are asking you to lean in and listen to the human case, our stories.
How is this any different for those of us with bipolar or other mental illnesses (read serious brain disorders) who are being fired?
Is stigma in the workplace not poisoning us to?
Are we not also feeling physical pain? Trust me, having to go on med and after med to try to regain your footing after being fired does cause much physical as well as emotional pain.
We too are suffering. Where is our justice? Who is standing up for what is right? Who is advocating for change?
I am. Accelerating Social Good is: Founder and CEO and Founder, Kerry Martin, supported by Meagan Copelin, chairing in the United States, COO Erin Macauley chairing in Australia, and Natasha Tracy chairing in Canada. They are leading mental health advocates and they all have lived experience too. They also have their own stigma stories, some harder to read than mine.
But it's not just us. There are many others who agree stigma in our workplaces is discriminatory, unjust. And, not just for those with a serious brain disorder such as bipolar but unjust for every single human regardless of your physical or mental health condition, visible or invisible, and regardless of the color of your skin or your sexual preference. It's unjust period.
Please visit our Wall of Solidarity, made up of everyday people like you and me. People who have stepped up to join us in our campaign. We call them our stigma-fighter superheroes as by uploading their selfies to our wall they are helping us take another brick out of the wall of stigma and sending a clear message that we want the wall taken down. Finally.
These are not just concerned citizens, but global diversity, inclusion and equity leaders, best-selling authors, mental health advocates, podcasters, nonprofit leaders, and those that suffer from mental health conditions.
I hope that others will join us in our grassroots campaign to eradicate stigma in our workplaces and put an end to the discrimination. And, to finally provide urgently needed mental health programs and supports in our workplaces for all who are suffering.
We are all humans worthy of support, not worthy of being poisoned by stigma. No one should get fired because they have a mental illness. This discriminatory practice must be stopped.
Hitesh Gupta, India Chair, Accelerating Mental Wellness, A Global Workplace Cause-Advocacy Initiative Sponsored by Accelerating Social Good with contributions by Kerry Martin, Chief Purpose Officer and US Chair.