I’ve had a few responses on twitter and interest about my article in last week’s Daily Mail about being offered a job in 2009 and then abruptly having the offer withdrawn because I failed a psychometric test and was judged too “emotionally unstable” to work there. Something else kept it in my head too – the recent launch of a campaign by the Health Service Executive and Taoiseach Enda Kenny called #littlethings. This campaign encourages people to talk about the “little things” they do to safeguard their mental health and bring themselves joy. A thoughtful idea with some great advertising by Una-Minh Caomhanach whose work I respect (my computer has lost fadas, sorry!) and I’d love to join in, but as Matthew Mulligan has noted in Trinity News, such campaigns are once again placing the responsibility for a collective failure of empathy right back onto individuals, without making sure the helping mechanisms are working. The implication from our Head of State is that we primarily are responsible for our own mental wellbeing when our mental health is under threat.
I was not responsible for having a job offered to me, and then the offer taken away after three interviews, in the middle of the deepest recession in history. I was not responsible for being told the following:
But when I returned to the terraced office for a follow-up meeting, the director’s attitude towards me had done a 180. This time he snarled at me with open contempt, drawing a line on a piece of paper and jabbing at it with his finger. “See the middle of that line? You should be here. Instead,” and he put an asterisk on the far right, “you are there. Now I can get you back in the middle, but you have to do the work. It’s up to you.”
I am not responsible for maintaining my mental health in an environment that is prejudiced against my existence. How can I be? I am not responsible for failing to measure up to a culture which thinks I am not in the middle enough. I am not responsible for other people’s stigma. I am only responsible for myself, for keeping a roof over my head, and fulfilling my artistic goals. Going by the reviews, I don’t think I’ve done too badly. But it was not all smooth sailing, personally.
So what is the #littlething that sustains me when my soundness of mind is threatened? It’s to remember that none of this was my fault and that I’m not obliged to do anything differently as a result of these people. They’re, frankly, wrong. My only fear is that when I had my brush with discrimination, I was no spring chicken, and had a very marketable skill. I knew my own worth. When I think of vulnerable young people being taken advantage of in similar manner – oh here’s that WWI thing again – and then told to think about the #littlethings rather than the #bigthings like stigma which hurts them – my blood starts simmering.
Here’s the full article below the cut: