THE stigma of mental illness remains strong in workplaces and among employers, despite one in five adults being affected by some sort of mental disorder every year.
According to research released yesterday, only 27 per cent of hiring managers would give someone living with mental illness a job.
The report, commissioned by non-profit organisation WISE employment, surveyed 276 small and medium businesses across Australia. Those employers unwilling to hire people living with mental illness cited unpredictable or unstable behaviour, a lack of understanding from other staff and an inability to do the job.
But Mental Health Council of Tasmania chief executive Darren Carr said these were all misconceptions fuelled by a lack of awareness. "In the mental health sector we have many people employed, and we have many people employed in the Mental Health Council as well, who are people living with a mental illness ... and board members who are people living with a mental illness," he said.
"These are high- performing, intelligent, capable people who do a fantastic job. These fears are not justified: they are a sign of a lack of awareness, a lack of understanding and a lack of compassion and willingness to find out."
WISE Employment general manager Matthew Lambelle said many people were unwilling to reveal or talk about their mental illness out of fear that they would be subject to discrimination.
Mr Lambelle said employees should be able to discuss mental health issues with an employer, just as they would any physical injury or illness.
He said there was hope for the future, with the research showing that generation Y managers and employers were more likely to hire people with a mental illness, compared with generation X and baby boomers.
jstephens@examiner. com.au or twitter @jodiestephens1