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Why I Hired an Executive with a Mental Illness - Rob Lachenauer - Harvard Business Review

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Mental illnesses are nuanced:

Businesses don’t have a great track record with the mentally ill. Today, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, some 60% to 80% of people with mental illness are unemployed. In part, this is the crippling nature of the disease. But a large part of the problem that we have in hiring people who have some mental disorder is that we lack the sophisticated vocabulary to talk and act regarding these illnesses. How often have you heard it said that somebody “had a nervous breakdown”— that vague 1950s euphemism — and had no way to know exactly what this meant?

With problems of the body, we have plenty of words to differentiate among, say, the common cold, the flu, and pneumonia. Managers are comfortable with physical illnesses. We can plan for how long the employee will either be out of work or unable to work at full tilt. By contrast, mental illness is thought of as “all or nothing.” You’re either depressed, or you’re not; mentally ill, or not. Yet the reality is that the mental illnesses, too, are nuanced. We all have more or less mental health at different times in our lives. But the lack of a working language, together with the terrible secrecy that festers around mental illness, makes understanding one another, and collaborating effectively, extremely difficult.

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