In Australia and around the world, there is a preconceived idea on what disability should look like. When someone hears that a person has disability, many will picture a physical disability, shown through someone’s appearance or in the way they move. SANE Australia estimates that 45% of the population would experience a mental health disorder during their lifetime. These are considered as ‘invisible disabilities’.
An invisible disability spans across mental and neurological conditions that may not be immediately apparent. Through these disabilities being deemed “hidden”, there is an increased chance of people with invisible disability being judged or misunderstood, and not receiving the support they need.
Some of the main invisible disabilities include anxiety, autism, depression, bipolar, PTSD, Asperger’s, and learning disabilities. Individuals with these disabilities may have trouble identifying what they need, or maybe they know that they need support but struggle to articulate it, leaving them feeling misunderstood or invalidated. Living with an invisible disability makes every day a challenge, but it adds another layer of complexity when looking for work.
Four million Australians are living with disability, 2.1 million of those of working age. According to the Australian Network on Disability, only half of those were employed (47.8%), compared with 80.3% of people without disability. These statistics highlight how difficult and overwhelming the process of applying for work can be for people with disability.
When job seeking with an invisible disability, it is your choice whether or not disclose your mental health condition. Disclosure depends on whether you believe it will interfere with your ability to perform and fully commit to the position.
When going through the job search process, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against age, race, gender and religion, and it should be the same with disability. But disclosure is not a negative thing, as it raises awareness of invisible disability and prepares your employer to support you down the track by making amendments to your role, working hours, work location and providing other flexible options.
As an employee with invisible disability, you are entitled to the same rights as your colleagues, without discrimination. If you disclose your invisible disability and feel you are being discriminated against, you can approach the Fair Work Ombudsman for advice.
How can you manage your mental health at work?
- Have a rest from your screen and spend time outside during your working day
- Open the line of communication between yourself and your manager and have honest conversations about your mental health
- Develop new interests by taking on new roles, whereby a mental challenge can help stimulate your mind and make your job more meaningful
- Try and eat well, as what we eat can affect how you feel both immediately and in the long-term.
AimBig advocates for the rights and fair treatment of all individuals. Through our experiences in working with people with mental health conditions, we understand the unique challenges these individuals have as job seekers and in everyday life. We will continue to raise awareness of invisible disability as we want to do our part in creating a more inclusive society, where all individuals feel safe and comfortable to disclose their disabilities to future employers.
If you have an invisible disability and are looking for work, please know that many organizations would be happy to employ people with known mental health conditions.
If you need help getting in touch with these companies or finding work, contact us. We work with you as ana individual and we tailor our services to meet your needs. Our job coaches offer a variety of post placement support including engaging workplaces in disability awareness training and support.