It’s been six months since I ‘opened up’ about my mental health experience and every day since has been a school day in one way or another, as I continually learn from others and institutions and build the Mental Health in Business community.
Walking home through the park on Monday I processed a recent discussion about hidden disability and started questioning two things!
My first thought was that I hid my OCD (no surprises it’s officially classified as a hidden disability) for 34 years, however, I now spend all my energy encouraging people not to hide and open up about their challenges! Naturally it’s in an attempt to raise awareness, stimulate support and reduce the stigma, but it occurred to me I may not be helping the cause by still using the word ‘hidden’.
By using the word ‘hidden’ does this actually remind people why they hide their challenges from loved ones, friends and colleagues, and lead them to continue to do so? I feel it’s probably time to drop the word ‘hidden’!
I also wondered that by having a hidden disability, does that classify me as disabled? The Equality Act says you have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse, and long term effect on your normal day-to-day activities.
I suppose I used to meet that requirement in the most challenging years of my OCD, but now I have a much better handle on it I’m not sure I still do. However, when one researches the causes of OCD you find resources like this that confirm I may have an abnormality in up to three parts of my brain – Cause of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
These abnormalities are permanent and I still have regular moments, therefore, does this constitute as having a long term, substantial and/or adverse effect on me?
I’ve done some searching across both of these areas and the results are a little bit open to interpretation, so thought I would enlist the global LinkedIn community for its view. Please help!
If by using the phrase ‘hidden disability’ we are in fact discouraging people to ‘open up’ I vote we drop it from our discussion and talk about having a disability. However, I’m not sure it’s that easy unless everyone with a mental illness can be classified as disabled.
There are going to be much more knowledgeable and experienced people out there who can answer these questions, and if there is a change of language and classification required, let’s get on with it because the more people who open up, the faster the stigma gets floored, and if everyone can get more clarity from a legislative standpoint, then the protection, treatment and support one can expect to receive will improve demonstrably, thus encouraging even more to open up.
I would love your thoughts.