Job application discrimination and mental illness

Recently I’ve applied for a number of library government positions in southern Oregon where I’m fairly sure I met the minimum requirements but was never even asked for an interview. The basic requirements were the following: a high school degree and some experience working in a library.I wonder if there is some way to report discrimination at the level of a job application if it was due to age, mental illness(I admitted a disability) or gaps in employment? I have a recent seven-year gap in employment due to illness of parents and self. My father had heart problems and died in 2011 and my mother has dementia since 2009 due to a stroke. I additionally experienced a psychotic episode in 2010. During that period( 2010 – 2017) I volunteered for two years in a college library, assisted a person with research on a book and have taken care of my mother who has a moderate level of dementia.

Since I have a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry/Psychology, five years experience working in a library(OHSU/ Lewis and Clark) and two years experience supporting systematic type health reviews in the Portland VA, I feel more than qualified for a position that could be filled by some one with lower qualifications. I have also applied for some office assistant positions at a university which I’m sure I met the minimum qualifications but was never even asked for an interview. I think my gaps in employment in addition to age ( which can easily be looked up) prevented an interview. I think when employers see large gaps they sense something is wrong health and or personality wise. I love how people are angry at the unemployed/disabled while at the same time discriminating unjustly against them. An excerpt from a medscape article  and a second article summarizes it best.

Work is a major determinant of mental health and a socially integrating force that is highly valued. No single social activity conveys more of a sense of self-worth and social identity than work. To be excluded from the workforce not only creates material deprivation but also erodes self-confidence, creates a sense of isolation and marginalization and is a key risk factor for mental disability.

“Once they heard that word that’s it. Sometimes I think it’s worse than telling them you’ve been in jail. Once you mention that their face changes and their body language changes and you know you won’t get the job”.

“I applied for a government job and they said the mental state wasn’t quite what they were looking for.”

I believe that discrimination due to mental illness was at play also when I lost my last position with the VA. I overheard conversations toward the end about me which strongly hinted that my health was problematic and that they needed to be cautious about getting rid of me. This came from a medical doctor who should be more enlightened on the topic. In the end, they gave much of my work to an intern who was doing it for free and when I protested my position was eliminated.

Is there any recourse here? Obviously if one reports discrimination he/she will probably not get the position or even if he/she did probably wouldn’t want to work there because of potential retaliation. This issue bothers me on principle and also obviously for financial reasons. Reporting employers like this would feel like time well spent but in the long-term might be bad strategy. I think employers know this and this is why this crap persists.

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The boundaries of mental illness

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Isn’t everyone a little mentally ill? This seems to be the prevailing idea on my FB feed via memes. One of these memes says, ” relax…we’re all crazy, its not a competition”. When I see this I feel annoyed but at the same time I wonder is there a clear boundary between normal and abnormal? As someone who has experienced psychotic depression, OCD and Dysthymia I’m annoyed because that large of a spectrum invalidates my difficulty to a large degree. I think these people mean well because they are trying to include me as normal but on the other hand  saying that I don’t have much to complain about. Continue reading “The boundaries of mental illness”

Mental illness and mass shootings

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Recently a well known psychiatrist, Dr. Gail Saltz, and Obama stated that most mass shooters aren’t mentally ill. I’m a little perplexed about this since the most recent shooter, Chris Harper Mercer, and many others have at least a personality issues if not an actual personality disorder. A personality disorder is considered a mental disorder and according to Wikipedia mental illness and mental disorder are used interchangeably.

Most mass shooters are angry loners, not mentally ill. Mentally ill more likely to be victims

According to Saltz they tend to be loners with anger issues. Seems fairly obvious but I’m guessing there is more. They tend to often have a preoccupation with becoming famous and getting some kind of revenge against an unfair world. This could indicate some issues with narcissism and antisocial behavior. Additionally, there seems to be some depression however not the clinical variety. All of these mass shooters know they will not survive so the act is essentially suicide.

One solution to this problem could be to somehow screen students using psychological tests such as the MMPI when they are matriculated into college. After that ones that showed a tendency towards that behavior could be monitored closely. I’m sure at this point psychologists have a profile of this type of person.Many would claim an invasion of privacy but so is getting shot at. The rights of the individual have to be balanced against the rights of the group. At the moment they are too much in favor of the individual.

According to DSM-IV, a mental disorder is a psychological syndrome or pattern, which occurs in an individual, and causes distress via a painful symptom or disability, or increases the risk of death, pain, or disability; however it excludes normal responses such as grief from loss of a loved one, and also excludes deviant behavior for political, religious, or societal reasons not arising from a dysfunction in the individual.[

It’s interesting, looking at this DSM-V definition of what a mental disorder/ mental illness is, how it has to cause distress to the individual. What about relatives and society? Perhaps if these mass shooters don’t fit any definition the DSM-V needs to add a label just for them.

edit:

Here are a few articles I’ve read since writing this post that discuss the same topic. It appears one could profile these mass shooters but the description could apply to a lot of people. Mental health is part of the picture but not necessarily the most beneficial thing to focus on. A history of violence appears to be a better predictor.

What We Actually Know About the Connections Between mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and Gun Violence

Mass Murders Fit Profile, as Do Many Others who don’t Fit Profile

How to Stop Violence

 

Previous mental illness diagnosis and other health problems

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A couple of weeks ago I went to the doctor due to some problems with my sciatic nerve and some other mysterious nerve sensitivity in my hands, face and feet. Googling my symptoms indicated the possibility of nerve damage which gave me some anxiety and I thought possibly there was some treatment for my sciatic problem. The doctor wasn’t my regular one but another one since it was  a walk in clinic. I had initially intended to go to my regular doctor but she insisted that I go immediately to the clinic that day and that she didn’t have any time to see me. My understanding was that my mysterious nerve symptoms overlapped with a description of  someone having a stroke so I indulged her anxiety and went in the clinic that same day.

Once I got there however they treated me like the neurotic one and the doctor insisted in the end that I should go to a psychiatrist despite the fact that I have no insurance coverage for mental disorders. For some reason the male doctor fixated on my irritated hands which were slightly red and dry(possibly due in part to the sun). Judging by his thinking he seemed to think I had OCD and or possibly Lupus. The Lupus could have been due to admission of some joint pain and my previous diagnosis of depression. His impression of my sciatic nerve problem was that it wasn’t enough of a problem for him to treat it at all. I inquired about muscle relaxants (anti-anxiety meds) but he didn’t want to prescribe for some reason. The philosophy of this clinic seems to be that anti-anxiety meds should be prescribed by a psychiatrist.

I have had a similar experience before like this. I mentioned some mysterious nervous symptoms and was referred to a psychiatrist. It seems like when a doctor can’t find a suitable diagnosis they immediately try to label the person as unstable…not terribly logical but it apparently saves them from confronting their own ignorance. Admittedly, part of this problem could be due to an error in communication. Here is an excerpt from an article on the topic of mental health stigma.

From a public standpoint, stereotypes depicting people with mental illness as being dangerous, unpredictable, responsible for their illness, or generally incompetent can lead to active discrimination, such as excluding people with these conditions from employment and social or educational opportunities. In medical settings, negative stereotypes can make providers less likely to focus on the patient rather than the disease, endorse recovery as an outcome of care, or refer patients to needed consultations and follow-up services.

At this point, I still have problems with my sciatic nerve and can’t walk for more than 15 minutes or so without resting due to the pain in my lower leg. Additionally, I have unusual sensitivity in my hands and feet which makes typing at the moment somewhat unpleasant. I am quite sure my previous diagnosis of psychotic depression is giving this doctor an excuse to not take my symptoms seriously and I am not sure what to do about it. Stigma due to mental illness is frustrating and it can impact other health problems which aren’t taken seriously.

update: tests don’t confirm Lupus

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My arguments against antipsychiatry

My experience deviates from the experience of the depressed and psychotic people in Anatomy of an Epidemic. I would argue against Robert Whitaker (antipsychiatrists) by making the following points:

  • Robert Whitaker said that depression used to be thought of as cyclic and a limiting illness. My experience is that it is moreBobWhitaker chronic and that chronicity wasn’t due to medications . My depression was chronic for about eleven years prior to taking any medication. They don’t acknowledge atypical depression which is more chronic and less severe.
  • Whitaker believes that medication causes a more severe type of illness. This isn’t the case with me. The way depression expresses itself has changed over the years but I would necessarily say that medications made it more severe. Depression tends to be more atypical in younger people and more typical in older individuals.
  • Whitaker believes that psychosis is a fairly limited condition and consequently can be dealt with without medication. I experienced psychosis about four years ago and didn’t take medication until about a year ago. The psychotic episode didn’t seem to be resolving on it’s own.
  • Whitaker believes that most mental illness is resolved by time and alternative medicine such as diet, exercise and psychotherapy. Prior to experimenting with antidepressants and antipsychotics I tried quite a few natural therapies without much luck.
  • He believes that mental illness isn’t real, much like Thomas Szasz, due to a lack of pathology. There isn’t any test that doctors can run to diagnose someone as “mentally ill”. While this is true migraines don’t have any particular pathology either and yet are accepted as quite real. Why do antipsychiatrists assume that scientists know everything there is to know regarding mental illness. Antipsychiatrists seem to exist just in the present.
  • In many of his comparisons of nonmedicated vs medicated patients he never seems to discuss why the nonmedicated patients were nonmedicated. Did they possibly have a more limited illness or a less severe one?
  • Whitaker believes that medication interferes with people taking responsibility for their “illness”. Why is there a need to blame the patient with mental illness. Whitaker would like to take us back to the middle ages where mental illness was seen in the context of religion. It was seen primarily as a moral failing and not a physical one.

I agree with Whitaker that antidepressants aren’t particularly effective and many people are diagnosed incorrectly however there is still much that I don’t agree with him on.

Advanced paternal age associated with mental disorders

A new study has found that the increase in some mental illnesses could be due to the fact that child bearing is being delayed in modern culture.

 The effect of advanced paternal age at childbearing on the psychiatric morbidity risk of their children extends to several 8005762999_771a3cc7c1_opsychiatric disorders and particularly bipolar disorder, findings from a sibling-comparison study show.

Children born to fathers who were 45 years of age and older had a 24.70-fold increased risk for bipolar disorder, compared with those born to fathers aged 20 to 24 years. This was after all factors shared by siblings had been taken into account.

The team concludes in JAMA Psychiatry that the results support the theory that genetic mutations that occur during spermatogenesis as a man ages influence offspring morbidity.

It occurred to me that the association of Bipolar Disorder with affluence might fit with this study because more affluent people might wait longer to start families.

Anti-Psychiatry is simple minded

According to this man in the video no known pathology exists in the mentally ill and consequently mental illness doesn’t exist. What annoys me is that anti-psychiatrists believe that pathology or abnormality can only exist as either a lesion or something measured in the blood. I submit that they have an overly narrow view of pathology. Given the complexity of the human body numerous things could function abnormally. Migraine, for example, is a well accepted neurological disorder however neurologists aren’t sure why migraines, much like mental illness, occur.

Another specific example of abnormality/pathology is the lack of circadian phase alignment between the sleep wake cycle and the melatonin cycle that exists in many depressed individuals. In SAD individuals the melatonin cycle is often delayed relative to the sleep wake cycle. This can be corrected by the use of bright light or melatonin supplements.  One particular study found a connection between the degree of depression and the lack of alignment between the two cycles.