Not all disabilities are visible. World Mental Health Day, observed Oct. 10, provides an opportunity to help quash the social stigma that keeps mental health out of plain sight.
James Lynch, Vice President of Communications for AT&T, has spoken about the importance of talking openly about mental health issues. James, who has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), recently shared his thoughts on that experience in a blog on LinkedIn.
“No question, there’s still a stigma about mental illness and disabilities in our society,” James wrote. “That’s why I identify myself as a person with a mental disability through AT&T’s #iCount program.”
The #iCount campaign allows all U.S. employees of AT&T to voluntarily (and confidentially) self-identify online in any or all of four categories: race, veteran status, disabilities and LGBTQ. Encouraging more people with disabilities to participate is a key focus area for 2019. This information helps AT&T enhance its ability to be inclusive for all employees.
Jason Moses, Lead Consultant – Diversity at AT&T, describes the situation like this. “Do we need to get more people with disabilities into our workforce? Or, are they already here but not comfortable saying it? We want to have a diverse, open environment where people feel confident being their authentic selves.”
For the #iCount program, AT&T employees must log in to register, but the information is 100% confidential and will not become part of personnel records. And while there are more than 220 conditions that qualify as a disability for #iCount, employees don’t have to reveal what that condition is, just that they have one. The list of conditions, which follow those established by the Social Security Administration, might surprise you. Mood disorders, asthma and knee replacement are just a few.
A recent study by the Center for Talent Innovation reported that while 30% of professionals fit the current federal definition of having a disability, the majority keep that status a secret.
“Take depression,” Jason said. “Most people know someone struggling with depression on some level. While you may not physically see that someone faces a challenge, #iCount helps to ensure everyone is counted.”
Do you have a disability you are keeping hidden? Disclosing “invisible disabilities” on the job can relieve the stress of keeping things bottled up and support career development. Explore strategies to open up at work with greater confidence.