On ‘Shameless’ & How Talking About Mental Illness Online Could Hurt Your Job Prospects

Living with a mental illness is tough business.

I know because I have a family history of depression, bipolar, and a host of other mental illnesses that I’m sure myself and other members of my family did not ask for. At all.

The sad part is watching my friends and family get excluded from jobs for addressing their mental illnesses in blog posts or on social media, when they’re just looking to help someone else who is struggling.

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This is why I’m happy that the Showtime series Shameless tackled this subject in the Season 6 finale episode. If you haven’t been watching, Ian Gallagher, who who worked hard to get his bipolar disease in check, finally found a job that he loves as an EMT. The problem is that he lied on his application when he was asked if he had ever been committed for a mental illness. Instead of checking the “yes” box, he checked “no,” because he knew that he wouldn’t become a permanent hire if he told the truth. This led to Ian being fired before he really began his new job.

After speaking with his boyfriend, who told him to look past his problems and to try and get his job back, he decided to take his advice. He made it clear to his supervisor that he worked his but off for the job, and he wouldn’t have been hired if he was honest about his illness. He also said that he didn’t ask to be bipolar, and she wouldn’t have refused him if he used a wheelchair, so how was his disease any different?

For now, we think it worked out. But the plain truth is that many people deal with what Ian is going through. Unfortunately, talking about a mental illness online can do some people more harm than good. Employers have taken to social media to study their new hire candidates, which means that a person could essentially be seen as a liability before turning in an application. Some employers won’t even hire you if you have carpal tunnel, much less a mental illness.

It’s one of those job hunting nuances that sucks. To the core. We have to pick our poison in order to become employable, even though some employers see people with manageable mental illnesses as unemployable.

It stinks having to choose between getting a paycheck or standing in your truth while being underemployed.  However unfair it may seem, it’s what job hunting in the social media age has come to.

The sad part is that we won’t ever reach a level of understanding each other if we aren’t upfront with what we’re going through, especially if it could help other people. But it comes at the sacrifice of having a steady paycheck, and that hurts.

Did you see the Season 6 finale of Shameless? What are your thoughts on the subject? 

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