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About a decade ago, conversations about mental health had not yet reached the mainstream. Many of those who struggled with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) did not yet have the tools or the vocabulary to understand or process their experience. They also dealt with the fear of being stigmatized by others around them, whether in their families, friend groups, or in the workplace.
In the era of the 2020s, however, more sectors of society have begun to take mental health seriously. The topic is also a relevant one in the context of the Philippines, where, according to the Department of Health (DOH), at least 3.6 million Filipinos currently battle mental health issues. Stress from the COVID-19 pandemic has also taken its toll; the Department of Health estimates that one in every three COVID-19 patients is diagnosed with a mental health condition within six months of testing positive for the virus.
While the Philippines has definitely moved forward in terms of mental health awareness and response, it may still be a tricky issue to navigate in a situation like a job interview. If you’ve been dealing with a mental health condition or care deeply about the issue, you may be wondering if you and your potential employer will be able to see eye to eye. Should you be prepared to talk about it when looking for job vacancies in Metro Manila? Here are some points to consider, as well as some suggestions for broaching the topic of mental health in a professional setting.
No, If You’re Not Comfortable Doing So Just Yet
The very first thing that you should remember about any discussion related to your mental health is that you should never be forced to talk about it when you’re not ready to do so. This includes situations like interviewing for a new job, which is already nerve-wracking enough on its own. If you’re not yet comfortable disclosing your condition or going into a deep dive on mental health—at your job interview or in any other situation—remember that it’s okay to refrain from doing so.
Yes, If It’s Related to Other Health Issues
It may be easier for you to bring up the topic of mental health with your interviewer if it’s related to another condition, like a disability or a chronic illness—and if both of these things could affect your work performance in a significant way. Your future employer may appreciate your being upfront with them about your health, and if they’re a good match for you, they’ll also be better prepared to accommodate you in a holistic manner.
Yes, If Your Potential Employer Already Has Mental Health Programs in Place
You may feel more open to discussing your condition if you already have evidence that the company values mental health. If your research indicates that they have an active mental health and wellness program, as well as partnerships with mental health professionals like psychiatrists and licensed therapists, you will probably have leg room to bring it up with your interviewer.
Once you’re done discussing the terms of reference for the job opening, look for an opportunity to ask questions about the company’s mental health initiatives and how you might benefit from them in the future. Your interviewer should be happy to entertain your questions, especially if it will increase the likelihood of you saying “yes” to the offer.
Yes, When You’re Negotiating Flexible Work Arrangements
Lastly, if you have a feeling that things are going your way and you’re already at the point where you’re negotiating work arrangements with your interviewer, see if you can bring mental health into the picture. Consider bringing it up if it’s a crucial part of your current life situation and if interventions like flexible work arrangements will help you perform at your best.
For example, if one of your family members has passed away and you are currently dealing with your grief as well as changes to your household dynamic, let your interviewer know about what you’re dealing with. They should be able to walk you through the available options and guide you through a healthy transition into your new duties.
Some Last Tips on Broaching the Topic of Mental Health During Your Interview
Again, even if discussions on mental health are more common nowadays, it can still be quite nerve-wracking to initiate them in professional settings. To this end, here are a few last tips on navigating the discussion with a stranger like your interviewer:
- Be honest, upfront, and direct, but don’t give away your whole medical history or other sensitive details if there’s no need to do so. Share what you’re comfortable sharing, and limit the information to what you think your potential employer should know as it pertains to your job requirements.
- Practice what you’ll say during the interview, and think ahead about what questions your interviewer might ask you about your mental health. You will leave a good impression if you are truthful about your mental health concerns and also proactive and prepared to think about how it will affect your work and livelihood.
- Reach out to your therapist or counselor, as well as your friends and family members, for good advice on how to manage the situation. They may be able to help you find the right words to say or discern the right timing for bringing your concerns up, as well as give you some much-needed reassurance.
The ideal employer will have your best interests in mind and will support you in your quest to balance your physical health, mental health, and career. Think carefully about where to apply, be thoughtful about how you’ll broach mental health in your interview, and say yes to a job that will help you achieve stability, holistic health, and happiness.
Also read: Coping with the Silent Killer: Mental health crisis amid COVID-19 pandemic
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