Defending my depression
July 16, 2007 10:08 AM   Subscribe

How do I defend my mild depression against a HR Director?

I've signed a contract for my new dream job, except the HR Director wants to see me quite urgently over the medical questionniare, in which I disclosed my very mild history of mild depression. (a diagnosis I sought on a whim really so I could get these happy pills. They don't do much either way but I just kept taking them because... well, it can't do any harm can it?)

What can I say to the HR Director to assuage her fears? The job's in the UK media, so I'm surprised it's such an issue for them.
posted by electriccynic to Work & Money (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know how medical discrimination law works in the U.K. but in the U.S. the ADA protects you from discrimination on the basis of medical diagnosis unless there is a bona fide requirement written into the job description. You shouldn't have to say much of anything beyond, "It is a medical condition, for which I am receiving successful treatment."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:20 AM on July 16, 2007

I had a similar experience when applying for a job (public sector, UK), and the key thing seemed to be that I was able to say that I'd never had time off for it. If this is the case for you, that should help.
posted by paduasoy at 10:34 AM on July 16, 2007

Point 3, Paragraph 5: Employers will have to be careful that their recruitment, training and dismissal procedures, etc. do not treat disabled people unfairly.

Yes, you are disabled in your own way, under the eyes of the law.

This company is sailing very close to the wind if they intend to take you to task for medication you are/were taking. A medical questionnaire could be considered beyond the pale and is unnecessary unless you're doing physical work (ie heavy lifting, driving a van etc).

I understand Prozac is the most-prescribed drug in Britain, but I can't find a link proving this.

Assuming that you're taking it (or a similar SSRI), you're in good company. If you do want to defend yourself, I would mention this. Chances are half the people you're working with are on Prozac.
posted by humblepigeon at 11:54 AM on July 16, 2007

Just out of curiosity - if it is a mild history of mild depression - why did you disclose it?

I am all for being honest on health insurance application forms etc where the consequences of non-disclosure can result in losing your cover but if something is not impacting your ability to work (which the mild history of mild depression would suggest) why would you disclose it?
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:57 AM on July 16, 2007

Response by poster: I just disclosed it because I was just being honest, and didn't think they'd make it an issue...
posted by electriccynic at 12:14 PM on July 16, 2007

a diagnosis I sought on a whim really so I could get these happy pills.

you sought a diagnosis for depression so you could get "happy pills" (which by the way, depression medication isn't meant to make one "happy"—just even-keeled in order to function) on a whim and now it's coming back to maybe bite you in the ass.

Just out of curiosity - if it is a mild history of mild depression - why did you disclose it?

if it was a mild history of mild depression that in fact did not affect your ability to work and for which diagnosis you sought on a whim then why did you disclose it?

all of this sounds attention-seeking. and does a great disservice to those who really are affected by depression.

but aside from that, you should tell HR that it has not affected your ability to work in any way and that you can get your doctor to vouch for it if that is necessary.
posted by violetk at 1:09 PM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: IANAL, but I don't believe your mild depression would qualify as a disability under UK law.

"The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) protects disabled people. The Act sets out the circumstances in which a person is "disabled". It says you are disabled if you have:

* a mental or physical impairment
* this has an adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities
* the adverse effect is substantial
* the adverse effect is long-term (meaning it has lasted for 12 months, or is likely to last for more than 12 months or for the rest of your life)."

However, I don't think they are allowed to withdraw the offer based on your medical history. What is possible is that the HR manager needs to do a health and safety risk assessment, and would also have been calling you if you had disclosed asthma or diabetes or any other long term illness. But there is a stigma against mental illness, and you should be prepared. Check here for your rights.

(And please don't call anti-depressants 'happy pills'... that just contributes to the stigma of depression as an invented disease.)
posted by happyturtle at 1:31 PM on July 16, 2007

Best answer: a diagnosis I sought on a whim really so I could get these happy pills. They don't do much either way but I just kept taking them because... well, it can't do any harm can it?

Like violetk, if you have this attitude towards depression, I have no idea why you disclosed it to your employer. If I were you, I'd say exactly what I highlighted above to your HR Director. Perhaps this will assuage her fears. Or perhaps she'll just think you're one of those people who wants a quick fix to problems and perpetuates the stigma around a serious and debilitating disease. And perhaps this is a revered quality in your new line of work.
posted by meerkatty at 2:23 PM on July 16, 2007

It's not necessarily a negative thing. Your employer (like all employers in the UK) has a duty to ensure that they make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled people to do their jobs. They might just be wanting to talk to you to get more information. (It doesn't sound like you need any adjustments, but they probably don't know that from the information you've given on the form).

That said, it probably won't hurt to familiarise yourself with the Disability Discrimination Act before you go: Disability Rights Commission (which also has a longer explanation of what the act defines as disability than the site has). Mind also have some factsheets about mental health and employment that you might want to have a look at. Just so that you have some resources to back you up if you go and they are trying to make it into a problem.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:51 PM on July 16, 2007

Frankly, even if the law is on the poster's side, resorting to legal threats probably isn't the best solution.

I mean, the law says a company has to accomodate its employees' disabilities. But the poster doesn't need any accomodations — and his best course of action is just to say so. "This has never affected my job before, and I promise it won't now" should be all he needs to say.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:01 PM on July 16, 2007

Maybe I should clarify what I was saying... it might not have come out right. I don't think you should go in their all guns blaring, waving bits of paper around and making legal threats. But I do think you need to understand what the law does say on these matters, and how it might (or might not) apply to your situation. Just in case. My links could help you with your preparation.

Like I said, they probably just want to find out some more information, and if there's anything they need to do to support you.
posted by Helga-woo at 3:40 PM on July 16, 2007

I have mild depression (I was diagnosed with dysthymia). My depression has come up in a work related way once, when I injured my knees while working. My limited mobility didn't do wonders for my psyche so I went to see a therapist a couple of times. When I quit my job once it became clear that I couldn't work at my old job anymore because of my injury (and I had also decided to leave Iceland, where I was living at the time) I went and talked to the HR director about how to go about terminating my employment. Among other things she told me to send her the receipts of all medical bills so that she could reimburse me. I asked her if she'd also reimburse my visits to a psychologist and she said she'd look into it. They did end up reimbursing me.

So hey, maybe she's calling you in to give you money :)

If I were you I wouldn't go in there ready to go on the defensive or the offensive. Just go and see what she wants. Being aware of the legal intricacies helps, but I doubt she's specifically calling you in to screw you over (HR directors don't need to meet people face to face to screw them over). I suggest that you tell the HR director that your mild depression doesn't affect your work, that you're being treated for it. That's all you really need to tell her.

And finally, if you were diagnosed you have depression. Mild or not, there's no need to apologize for having it or taking medication for it. I'm not advocating that you gambol up and down the Alps singing about your depression, just that you don't have to offer excuses for it. Don't let anyone tell you how you feel, only you truly know. Conversely, you don't know how others feel. You have no way of measuring your depression against that of others. You may feel its mild, but for others with the same condition it might be severe.
posted by Kattullus at 4:20 PM on July 16, 2007

Response by poster: I never meant to dismiss anyone's depression by using phrases like "mild" or "happy pills" - I just sought to differentiate my experience of it from people who are severely depressed. Sorry for any hurt I have caused.

Thanks for your answers - D-day in about 5 hours. *gulp*
posted by electriccynic at 3:34 AM on July 17, 2007

How did it go?
posted by paduasoy at 3:37 AM on July 20, 2007

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