Many years ago, I asked my psychiatrist whether I should confide in a potential employer about my mental illness. He looked at me (as my wife often does) as if he were addressing a slightly slow three-year old.
“Imagine” he started, “that you had an identical twin. You are identical in looks, skills and personality. The only thing that differentiates you, is that you suffer from a mental illness. Imagine you both apply for the same job. Who does the employer employ?”
Now I’m not suggesting we all have an identical evil twin following us around and applying for every job we do, but you get the point. All things being equal, the employer will employ the mentally healthy person every time. I know I would.
I’m not suggesting you should never be open about your mental health, but you have to pick the times. I’ve been blabbing my mouth off regarding my bipolar for the last decade. But I’m an old bloke at the tail-end of my career and I don’t have much to lose. I also have a long and fairly successful career that proves I can manage both my work and my mental health.
But if I were starting my career all over again, I’m not so sure I’d be shooting my mouth off like this.
My advice, for what it’s worth, is know your colleagues and your company culture exceptionally well before you say a word. Things are changing for the better without doubt, but you still need to be careful.
Oh, and watch out for people who look just like you, except that they have a goatee. Especially if you’re a woman.