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The pandemic of the 21st century - Turning mental health into

The pandemic of the 21st century - Turning mental health into  (Image by pikisupersta on Freepik)
The pandemic of the 21st century - Turning mental health into

The health challenges faced by 25% of the global population are... mental health challenges! Are you surprised?

According to professional medical literature, it is estimated that one in four individuals (yes, 25% of the population) experiences mental health symptoms that require treatment, with 8% of the population dealing with significant mental disAbilities.

Depression has been declared by the World Health Organization as the leading cause of functional impairment worldwide, but depression is just part of the story. Anxiety disorders, OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and many other challenges are being faced by millions of people worldwide.

On October 10th, World Mental Health Day is observed in over a hundred countries.

My introduction to the field began with a massive failure. One of the first employees I recruited for a project, to which workers with disAbilities were integrated, was an individual with significant mental disAbilities. This was over 10 years ago, and I was incredibly naive. I went ahead without asking enough questions about how it would manifest in the work environment. Without delving into medical terminology, the person dealt with anxiety and distorted perception of reality, unable to handle criticism. Any professional feedback was perceived as an attack or abuse. Eventually, he resigned and started harassing me personally, sending numerous emails accusing me of ruining his life, threatening me in various ways, publicly defaming me with snide remarks at a large conference, waiting for me outside, shouting at me, and more. I chose not to involve the police, I did involve therapeutic resources, and it gradually subsided.

I could have decided to avoid employing people with disAbilities all together, especially when it comes to individuals coping with mental disAbilities. It was a heavy burden on me. This occurred over 10 years ago, yet it remains one of the most significant experiences in my professional journey, both traumatic and transformative. I made a different choice, and it turned me into a much better professional. Since then, I have encountered many successes, with men and women, assisting and guiding individuals who face mental challenges that are now thriving in the High-Tech industry.

Here are some examples from the past few months - it's possible!

Mia was hired as a QA and customer support specialist. She is dealing with mental health challenges. It turned out she was hired mainly to support customers, which was very difficult for her. Dealing with unsatisfied customers is a huge challenge. She thought about quitting, giving up, it didn't fit. During a calmer period, she proved herself to be an excellent QA professional with a unique perspective. They brought someone else to handle customer support, and Mia trained as a professional. She is having an in-depth understanding of the systems and is having high deductive abilities. The product quality is improving rapidly, and the new customer support person has an easier job now. Win. (Mia) Win. (new Customer Support person) Win (company). Isn’t it great?

George, was successfully hired by companies. He is experienced, he is a good React developer, and the market has been booming for long periods. The fact that he worked relatively short periods in previous companies hasn't affected him yet. In recent years, he has been exposed more to conversations about Diversity in the industry, and specifically about disAbilities, and he realized that he may also be different. Perhaps because of that, it is harder for him. He also deals with mental challenges, but he has never been officially diagnosed. Now he is in the process of getting an official diagnosis because he feels he will thrive more - he will be able to get the appropriate adjustments and thrive more. He is looking forward to really enjoying his work and struggling less.

I was touched to tears recently by a post that was shared on LinkedIn. A senior manager shared in a huge group that he was offered to be the CTO of the company. He knows they chose him rightly, but the onboarding of the role, and the expected meetings with all the teams, really made him anxious. He was not comfortable and struggled to function. He asked for help from group members in dealing with anxiety. Many people revealed that they also find it difficult, and together they shared strategies that help them

. A development manager whom I know and highly appreciate admitted that he is unable to speak at a conference in front of a large audience. It takes such an emotional toll on him and therefore he does all he can to avoid these kinds of events, although he clearly has a lot to share.. He thinks it will hurt his personal brand, but still chooses not to deal with it. He was surprised and excited to realize how common it is. He didn't know...

We believe that every person deserves an opportunity to succeed. Talent comes in all sorts of packaging. Over the years, we have learned much more about mental disAbilities, although we still don't fully understand, definitely not like a psychiatrist or psychologist. Yet we learned much more about how it affects the day-to-day ability to function. When recruiting, we recommend involving therapeutic professionals to better predict the current and potential ability to perform through a variety of tasks and exercises.

From our experience, we know that many people who deal with mental challenges can be excellent employees, real contributors, now and over time. Some of them are incredibly talented, creative, and their contribution to the organization can make a difference.

Despite the broad scope, this is a disAbility that is still not well understood, and it carries a lot of negative public perceptions and stigmas. Many barriers and fears make it very difficult for individuals to fully utilize their abilities in the workplace.

So if you have encountered these talented individuals or if you are dealing with these challenges yourself, hesitating or feeling anxious - as job seekers or employers, know that it is more common than you would expect. Many people in the industry struggle with this to varying degrees. The changing business world with its multitude of challenges and complexities, presents both more difficulties and new opportunities. Working from home and the hybrid work models, in particular, and changes in work habits, in general, allow some people coping with mental limitations to succeed more effectively - flexibility works in their favor.

The more we talk about it, raise awareness, and these individuals become less transparent and more integrated into the industry, the more they can contribute.

Are you an employer? An employee with suitable abilities and skills, who is given real opportunities to succeed, is a more committed worker over time. It could be anyone in your environment. We invite you to discuss it, to guide managers on how to include such employees and recruit more. In our organizational consulting processes, we assist companies in adapting inclusive approaches, for all, to be able to fully participate and contribute.


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