Last week, I sat in on a webinar to discuss online privacy, and how to protect yourself. During the session it was mentioned that you want to be careful about your privacy settings on social networks, like Facebook, because you wouldn’t want to broadcast to your coworkers, or potential employers that you joined a group for bipolar support, would you?
Two thoughts occurred to me, almost at the same time.
One, that is an incredibly offensive thing to say. When we talk about stigmatizing mental health issues, that is exactly the type of comment we are talking about, the assumption that dealing with a mental health issue like bipolar disorder, is something you shouldn’t ever admit to, and shouldn’t be discussed.
On the other hand, in the context of online privacy, it might also be good advice. Unfortunately, if your coworkers, or manager, knew you were dealing with something like bipolar disorder, you’re very likely to face some sort of discrimination, at the very least perhaps some assumptions about how much work you can actually do, or whether you’d be eligible for promotion.
As much as we like to advocate that anyone dealing with depression, bipolar, etc come forward and let others know that they are not alone, we also have to face the reality that it’s not always safe for people to come forward. Some employers are very supportive of employees when it comes to mental health, but many others are not. Much like child abuse survivors, those dealing with mental health issues have to make their own decisions about how public to be about their struggles.
When it comes to employment, we aren’t there yet. As offensive as it is to think about the comments made during that webinar, I have to face the fact that you probably do want to take a look at the privacy settings of your account before joining a group, or “liking” a page. I want anyone and everyone to “Like” the Facebook page for this blog, for example, but I am also aware that some people can’t, because Facebook would tell everyone that they liked a page about child abuse survivors, and they would have to be comfortable with that being “out there” to their friends.
Until we get to the day where there isn’t stigma attached to that simple of an act, we’ll just have to let each person make their own decisions on how public to be.
For those of us who can be public though, we should be. Those who can’t still need to know they aren’t alone out here!