Proof That Mental Illness Needn’t Be A Career Killer

by Bill Brenner on January 29, 2014

A few months back, I was interviewed for a Forbes article on people who turned their mental illnesses into a career strength. I’m happy to discover there are more success stories to share.

Mood music:

A good friend forwarded me “Why I Hired an Executive with a Mental Illness” by Rob Lachenauer, CEO and a co-founder of Banyan Family Business Advisors. Lachenauer describes hiring someone after a job interview in which the candidate came right out and told him she had a mental illness and was on medication. He writes:

My reaction to the candidate’s disclosure was, frankly, disbelief – disbelief that she found the courage to make herself so vulnerable before she was hired. She had to be interviewed by other members of the firm before I could invite her to join us, but we did hire her – and over the past few years, she has become not only a core member of our team, but a large part of the glue that holds the firm together.

He correctly points out that while The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prevents employers from discriminating against people who have a mental illness, the discrimination still happens a lot. In fact, he notes, when he told a former VP of a major investment banking firm about his column, he warned him against publishing it. “Clients are afraid to work with firms that have mentally ill people on the professional staff,” the former VP told him.

I’m glad that didn’t stop Lachenauer from running with it, and I’m grateful he gave that job applicant a chance to prove herself.

I outed myself when I was already comfortably entrenched in my job, having proven myself a thousand times over. I still felt I was taking a risk by starting this blog, but my bosses and colleagues turned out to be very supportive.

By the time I interviewed for my current job, the blog was already well known in the industry. My current boss had been reading my work by that point, and my continued blogging about life with OCD, depression and anxiety was not an item up for debate.

I’ve been fortunate, and I’m happy to see, through stories like Lachenauer’s, that the needle continues to move in the right direction.

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