The mental health history of persons seeking jobs should be of little relevance to potential employers, a senior mental health professional has declared.
Director of the Psychiatric Hospital David Leacock on Thursday described as “unfortunate” the response of many Barbadians to Environment Minister, Trevor Prescod’s recent announcement that former psychiatric patients would be among those employed by the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) to address the shortage of sanitation workers.
In fact, the hospital director accused those opposing the proposal of disregarding the inherent rights of human beings and rubbished any suggestions the hospital would release the mental health records of patients to potential employers.
“As advocates for persons with mental health challenges or issues, the first thing you want to make clear is that because a person has a mental health challenge, does not mean they don’t have the inherent rights of human beings,” he told journalists moments after accepting a donation for the hospital from the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
“Whether or not they choose to perform the task is totally their decision. If persons are given the opportunity to work in whatever avenues, whether in sanitation or otherwise and they believe it is something they can benefit from, then we encourage them to do that.”
Leacock acknowledged that psychiatric patients were often grouped with ex-convicts and viewed negatively by society. He however stressed one in every four people is affected by mental health issues which have not prevented them from distinguishing themselves in society.
“Many people we are unaware of have experienced mental health challenges and are working in very high functioning situations. The reality is that mental health problems affect one in four persons in their lifetime. That means that if there are 20 people in this room, at least five of them are expected to have mental health issues at least once in their lifetime,” he contended.
Leacock stressed: “So the circumstances around the whole thing were unfortunate. Again I say once a person has the chance to work I think they should be afforded that chance and I don’t think we should attach labels to people because they’ve had a past issue of mental health or incarceration and it is unfortunate that people sometimes assume that because a person has been to the hospital, they don’t have the capacity to perform certain tasks. Persons who have been affected by mental health issues have gone on to do great things.”
The hospital director further declared it was not the role of an employer to vet employees after they have been discharged from mental health institutions while acknowledging that some people required continuous assistance to maintain mental wellness.
“But it is not a case where we are going to be out there identifying who is a good candidate. If the SSA or anybody else puts an advertisement out there and a person who is capable applies, from our standpoint, we will not be letting anybody know anyone’s mental health status. We have confidentiality regulations that govern how we practice and as such we will not communicate any information relative to persons’ mental health status,” Leacock concluded.