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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Previous mental illness diagnosis and other health problems

mental-illness-7

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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