“No great genius has ever existed without a touch of madness,” said Aristotle, and it is a point worth making that mental illness should not be regarded only as a problem. Indeed, our working lives would be much less rich and interesting without the varied talents that people with mental health problems bring to work.
Even psychopaths, it seems, can utilise their charm and manipulation to great effect. Narcissistic managers are good at driving a business forward, whereas paranoid personalities might notice potential threats. As Mary-Clare Race and Adrian Furnham, both psychologists, rightly suggest in Mental Illness at Work, “it is where the disorder is very strong that problems arise”.
For too long, organisations have denied the presence of mental illness at work and as a result business has suffered – morale, productivity, attendance and staff retention are all affected. This denial also contributes to a climate in which those who suffer from mental illnesses dare not reveal themselves for fear of damaging their career .
One would have then to applaud any attempt at demystifying this highly stigmatised issue, and this book is a laudable attempt. It aims to make managers more mental health-literate, and succeeds in offering a comprehensive and well researched manual for understanding, recognising and responding to mental illnesses at work, including the ones most prevalent: depression, anxiety, burnout and addictions.
Mental Illness at Work is dense in content, and packed with practical information. To help people returning to work, for example, the authors suggest “a change in workload or an introduction of a more flexible working pattern”. Breaking their work up into small tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed is also recommended.