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An open letter to my former employer

written by Rebecca 02/02/2017

Dear X,

I’ve often heard people speak of the January Blues but it wasn’t until this year that I actually understood how awful they can actually be. I suppose that it doesn’t help that it’s been a year since I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression; a year since I came to you for help. Your reaction was far from what I expected. Instead of support, I was given a few weeks of paid sick leave before my contract was terminated. I often wonder if things would have turned out differently if I had been a permanent member of staff rather than a temporary one, but then why should that matter? Isn’t everyone entitled to certain rights when it comes to their health?

Statistics show that 9 out of 10 people with a mental illness face discrimination in the workplace. Considering that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives that first number seems frighteningly high to me.

When people ask me why I left teaching I tell them that it’s because it became too difficult to find steady work. Whilst this isn’t entirely untrue, it doesn’t reveal the primary reason for my departure from the profession. I have spent a long time feeling ashamed at being ‘let go’ from a job because of my mental illness. So much in fact that when others have tried to point out that I had been treated unfairly, I found myself justifying your actions. I made a very brave decision to approach you and I understand now that I should not have felt any sort of fear in discussing such matters with you. Statistics show that 9 out of 10 people with a mental illness face discrimination in the workplace. Considering that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives that first number seems frighteningly high to me.

When you sat me down in your office and laid bare my flaws, you effectively convinced me that I was accountable for my failings. I see now how wrong you were. I am not defined by my mental illness anymore than a person can be defined by a physical illness.

The purpose of this letter is not to throw stones but to educate. I have always admired and respected you but the events that transpired have irrefutably damaged my perception of you. I bare no ill feelings towards you, only sadness that someone as intelligent as you could be so blinded by stigma and treat someone in such a discriminatory manner.

I still feel a great deal of trepidation in publicising this because I feel like people will look at me differently. Regardless, I choose to be brave and share my story because that was the quiet resolution I made to myself as I celebrated the New Year with the people who care for me. Today is Thursday 2nd February which is significant in that it is Time to Talk Day. So here I am speaking out in the hope that I can inspire bravery in others like me and encourage compassion and empathy in everyone.

I forgive you and wish you well.

Kindest regards,

Rebecca

If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email info@timetochangewales.org.uk

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Submitted by natasha thomas on Feb 3rd, 2017

I'm so proud of you xxxx

Submitted by Dave Smith on Feb 3rd, 2017

Thank you for writing this Rebecca. There are many of us who have to strive to work at times when it can be so very difficult to leave the house. The effects of mental illness are far-ranging but so often remain hidden from society in general and, more specifically, our employers.

Sadly, the workplace is too often an uncaring and unhealthy place to be for anyone, let alone someone who is living alongside a mental illness. This is certainly a time when silence is not an option and speaking out, as you have done, is the best way to, at least, start the conversation.

I'm saddened by the fact that this resulted in you losing your job but would encourage you to persist in your search for work. In my estimation I would imagine that you are passionate about your career but might think it is incompatible with your own personal 'state-if-play'. I would say that your experiences make you a better you and would only help you to do your job (or any other) when you feel the time is right for you.

I say this as someone who has had to 'lay down his tools' from time to time because of my own mental illness. There are seasons in life so just put this one down to rest and recovery but please don't ever think you can't return to something which you loved and were good at because of a short-sighted and Ill-equipped employer.

Submitted by Natasha on Feb 3rd, 2017

You are very brave for speaking up. Its truly disgusting the way you were treated. 3 small words R U OK? Can change someone's life forever i wish the world understood this. Much love rebecca

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