Monthly Archives: October 2016

FAQ: Disclosing Your Mental Illness at Work

Work is good for us. There is evidence that it makes us happier, and while mental illness can hamper your ability to work, you really should if you can. Disclosing your mental illness might feel like a lose-lose situation: you must reveal sensitive information about yourself, and your boss must figure out how to deal with it. The stigma surrounding mental illness doesn’t help, either. Despite numerous campaigns, articles, and attempts to educate the public, myths and misconceptions are difficult to dispel. There’s certainly a possibility of negative consequences, so it can be a frightening prospect.

Barriers can take many forms“If it’s so risky, why should I tell?”

Perhaps the most pressing reason is that if your mental illness interferes with your work, you are obligated to disclose it. This is actually meant to help you; telling management that you face performance issues and require accommodations will make your job easier. You have a responsibility to let your boss know so they can support you.

Another compelling reason is that, by disclosing, you have an opportunity to educate others. Your productivity can prove to your superiors that mental health issues are not an insurmountable obstacle. You can lead by example, and reduce stigma at the same time.

“What should I say?”

There are several approaches you can take. It all depends on the nature of your illness and how comfortable you are with exposing personal information. If you struggle with the idea of being vulnerable, you can use general terms. You don’t need to be too specific. You only have to talk about what is relevant to your work situation. You are not even required to name your illness, if you don’t want to.

Talk about your strengths. While you do need to discuss the ways in which your illness will affect your performance, you should also point out the ways in which it won’t interfere. Make sure your manager is aware that you are still an asset, not a liability.

Stress that your illness is not a symptom of a bad attitude. Help them understand that at least some of your issues are beyond your control and that, while you’ll try to give it your best, there will be times when you struggle. Make sure you explain how this can be dealt with.

Two women chat in the business lounge.

Sit down in a comfortable space and have a frank discussion with your manager about your mental health struggles.

“How can I help my boss understand me?”

The first step is to tell them about your specific needs and preferences. Be honest and forthright about the accommodations that will help you do your best work. Chances are, they won’t know much about the topic, and they definitely can’t know what you’ll require unless you tell them. Don’t make them guess.

It’s a good idea to present them with brochures and other educational materials. Different sources of information are helpful, especially if you find it difficult to share that information yourself. This may also help them get past any deeply-ingrained beliefs about mental illness, which may be out of date or simply wrong.

“I’m still not sure about this…”

Disclosing mental illness will never be easy, but trust us when we say that failing to do so is the bigger risk by far. It causes intense anxiety in most cases, but once it’s over, there is an excellent chance you won’t regret it. It may result in a more supportive environment, and once the required accommodations are in place, you’ll be a happier, more productive employee. We know it’s hard, but be brave and take the leap. You’ll be glad you did.

Entrepreneurship & Disability: An Optimal Pair

In honour of Small Business Week, we’re focusing on entrepreneurship. Small businesses are the backbone of a community. They stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and allow for creativity and innovation. Economies and societies thrive when entrepreneurship flourishes.

Small business owners are living proof that self-employment can be fulfilling and liberating. Many would-be entrepreneurs are intimidated by the obvious barriers: lack of funding, support, and/or expertise. Despite their inner drive to create something new, to branch out, to be brave, taking the first step is daunting enough to deter all but the most determined.

Still, regular employment comes with its own share of barriers. Those with disabilities, including mental health issues, face distinct barriers to employment, which are often overlooked. Disability doesn’t prevent these individuals from being efficient, productive employees, but employers may be unwilling or unable to accommodate their specific needs. Discriminatory hiring practices—not to mention inhospitable work environments—can make self-employment more attractive.


A trendy small business option is starting a food truck.

Entrepreneurship Demands Innovation

Dealing with these types of barriers can actually benefit an aspiring business owner. The essence of entrepreneurship lies in an innovative spirit and a unique worldview. Those facing barriers to regular employment may be more receptive to out-of-the-box thinking by default, because their various challenges require them to find creative solutions to everyday situations. A person with a disability already lives a life that requires different approaches to ordinary activities, so thinking outside the box may come more naturally to them.

Entrepreneurship Encourages Flexibility

Part of entrepreneurship’s appeal is flexibility, which makes it ideal for someone with a disability. Flexible hours make it easier for someone with chronic illness to work when they can, rather than trying to follow a strict schedule. Being able to customize the business’s location and work environment ensures a wheelchair user can navigate safely and efficiently. A visually impaired business owner can make sure information is available in accessible formats. Freedom from stigma can help someone with a mental health issue reach their full potential without worrying about employer attitudes. Self-employment eliminates many of the barriers that come with working for someone else.

Entrepreneurship Ignites Social Change

Entrepreneurship allows business owners to give back to their communities. Besides contributing to the local economy and job creation, those starting new businesses have an opportunity to do some social good as well. Someone with a disability is better able to consider inclusiveness and accessibility when designing their work environment and may be more inclined to hire those from diverse backgrounds. A business owner with a mental illness might offer superior mental health support to their employees. Those with disabilities might be more understanding of the individual struggles of others, working harder to help however they can. Business owners can enforce their values from the top down, promoting a business culture that is more accessible and accommodating to everyone.


With the right encouragement and support, your business will soon be open for customers!

The Bottom LineVentures: Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program

Small businesses benefit everyone on all social and economic levels. An entrepreneurial journey, however risky, can lift someone out of unemployment and result in a challenging, exciting and rewarding career. That is why DECSA started Ventures: a program for entrepreneurs with disabilities. Through coaching and group support, would-be business owners get the skills and encouragement they need to pursue their business dreams. If you have a viable business idea and identify as having a disability, visit our site for more information.

Will there be barriers? Yes. Should they stop you? We don’t think so!

How to Know if You Are Being Bullied at Work (and What to do About It)

It’s National Stop Bullying Day, which for many of us may evoke visions of stolen lunch money and playground shenanigans. We tend to think of bullying as a concept concerning children and youth, as though adults eventually grow out of it.

Unfortunately, the reality is that National Stop Bullying Day isn’t just for kids—it’s for adults, too. Bullying doesn’t disappear when we leave school. In fact, a 2014 study conducted by Career Builder found that 45% of Canadians claim to have experienced workplace bullying. Bullying is different from harassment in that it is technically legal, and not every company has a code of conduct in place to prevent it. Since bullying is so hard to define, many people don’t even realize it’s happening at all, which makes them more vulnerable and gets in the way when they finally ask for help.

Even when employees realize they’re being bullied, they might be afraid to speak up, whether because they don’t think anything will be done, or because they feel ashamed of how they are being treated. This leaves the bully free to continue their toxic behaviour, while leaving the victim essentially powerless.

Workplace bullying isn’t just upsetting; it can be unhealthy, too. The constant stress it causes can lead to invisible symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, depression, and reduced productivity. In particularly serious cases, it can even lead to high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and appetite loss. The longer the situation is left unchecked, the worse it will get. That’s why it’s important to watch out for signs of bullying, assess the situation, and reach out for help if necessary.

Do you feel physically sick at the beginning of each work week? Are you feeling constantly undermined and dismissed? Do you dread any interaction with a specific person or department? If you answered yes to any of these, you might be experiencing workplace bullying. Read on to find out what to look for (and what to do once you find it).


Are you being ignored?

Your emails remain unanswered or even unread. The files you sent “didn’t go through,” or you’re locked into an eternal game of phone tag. While emails really do bounce and phone calls are often missed for genuine reasons, a coworker who is virtually impossible to get in touch with is probably ignoring you.

Of course, this behaviour can be less subtle. Perhaps a coworker is consistently overlooking your feedback or refusing to address you directly during meetings. It’s much more difficult to pretend innocence in face-to-face communication, but it’s not impossible.

If you’re dealing with any of these scenarios, there’s a good chance you’re being ghosted.



DECSA promotes an abuse-free environment through policies on respect.

You’re in trouble…but why?

You made a trivial mistake at work, and have now had your hours cut. You were dismissed from a project halfway through with little or no explanation. Your role and responsibilities have changed suddenly without warning or justification.

If any of these have happened to you, it sounds as though you’ve been punished without proper disciplinary procedure. If your work is unsatisfactory or if you’ve made a mistake, you need to be informed of the details, and the actions taken have to be within your company’s formal policies. If someone at work is arbitrarily altering your shifts or responsibilities but isn’t telling you why (or isn’t giving you a reason that fits the punishment), you’re probably being bullied.


Is there someone looking over your shoulder?

Micromanagement is relatively common in the workplace. Many of us have had supervisors who were a little too fond of hovering. Still, if you’re the only one being micromanaged, it’s not a good sign.

Constant micromanagement can make you feel undermined and untrustworthy. If someone is always checking your work, questioning your decisions, and telling you exactly how to do your job in an obviously critical way, it can be difficult to be productive at all. Selective micromanagement is a form of bullying because it sends the message that you, personally, are incompetent and need more supervision than everyone else. That’s a very stressful situation to work through, and is never healthy.


Feeling small?

Whenever you express concerns, they’re dismissed immediately. If you share an idea, it’s shot down right away. When you do excellent work, others take the credit, or leave your contributions out altogether because they’re not considered important enough.

Minimization takes many forms, and is complicated because it can come from any coworkers at any level. Even your subordinate can make you feel insignificant. Things can get even worse if your whole team gets involved, for example. If half the people in your office are determined to trivialize everything you say and do, it can be hard to see the point of coming into work at all. The message is loud and clear: you’re not welcome.

Personal Attacks

Have things gotten personal?

Your coworkers make backhanded comments about your personal life. Your supervisor fails to assign you any difficult work because you have a disability. Your coworkers make gender-related jokes you’re uncomfortable with in the lunchroom, expecting you to play along.

What’s outside the office should stay there, but some employees blend personal and professional life in ways that can harm and degrade others. Deliberately using knowledge of your personal life to disparage you at work is an overt and dangerous form of bullying, which should be addressed as soon as it happens.

What You Should Do

Addressing workplace bullying is a multi-step process. It can get a little complicated, and it won’t be the same for every case. Here is a starting point, though.

  • Take stock of your situation: are you being bullied? Is this an isolated incident?
  • Don’t blame yourself: while there’s something to be said for recognizing your part in workplace conflict, know that bullying is always unacceptable and is never deserved.
  • Don’t fail to act: bullies don’t decide to stop their behaviour one day and leave you alone. The situation will not change unless you make it happen.
  • Take a mental health day: stay home, if you can, to rest and regroup. Figure out what your next steps will be and prepare for them.
  • Gather proof: if there’s a paper trail, an email, a voicemail or any other piece of evidence, have it ready.
  • Talk to the bully: if you feel safe doing so, you can always confront the person or people who are bullying you. They might not even realize their behaviour is bothering you.
  • Speak to a neutral third party: if speaking to the bully didn’t resolve the issue, find another individual within the organization who can support you. Consult your Human Resources department, if your organization has one.
  • Know your rights: you should familiarize yourself with company policy on bullying and harassment, so you can argue your case should the need arise.
  • Set up a safety net: know that there’s a chance nothing will be done about the situation. Explore other options, like a transfer, that will separate you from the perpetrator(s).
  • Know when to quit: sometimes, the situation might be so dire that you need to walk away from your job. While this might seem devastating, it’s even worse to stay in an environment that is making you miserable. Conflict resolution is important, but so is your health.

3 Little-known Facts About Leaving the Sex Trade

The sex trade is often shrouded in mystery, which is made still worse by societal stigma. Those who work in the profession do so out of necessity and face difficult decisions. With so much pressure from the general public to abandon this type of employment, we feel it’s worth informing that public of what it is like for a sex worker to leave the lifestyle and search for a place in a world that does not welcome them.

1.      The stigma never goes away Photo of girl crying

Former sex workers expect hate speech and degrading treatment from others in the trade, but they often receive the most ill treatment from those on the outside. If they are outed as former or current sex workers, they are almost always faced with the threat of losing their mainstream jobs. Employers are not averse to dismissing former sex trade workers, even if they have not worked in the industry for decades. It is difficult enough to begin such a radical transition, and it is made still harder by the need to hide what they’ve done in the past. Regardless of how successful they become, they will always have stigma dogging their footsteps.

2. Judgment Abounds, but Support is Lacking

Since sex work is so heavily stigmatized, many are eager to encourage those in the industry to exit as quickly as possible. They heap condemnation on these individuals, insisting that their work devalues them and chips away at their self-respect. In other words, they’re not really respectable people until they change professions. Despite this, support for transitioning sex workers is lacking. Even if the initial process is smooth and they find work, they risk losing their jobs if they’re outed, and find themselves very much alone in their struggles. This is why DECSA established our Transitions program, to help these people start their new lives without judgment or disrespectful treatment. Transitioning may seem like a simple decision, but it is by no means easy.

guys-face3. Transgender Individuals are Uniquely Vulnerable

Being transgender is almost guaranteed to mean the world will be a hostile, dangerous place to live. Transgender people, especially women of colour, are often victims of socioeconomic barriers, and they feel that sex work is the only way to support themselves. Further, transition is very expensive, so financial pressures are even more debilitating. Sex work is demeaning, yet individuals may find that it’s the only viable way to keep themselves off the streets. Being a transgender individual is risky at the best of times—they are frequently assaulted and even murdered—and the sex trade necessitates a lifestyle that is less than ideal, both emotionally and physically.


Sex trade workers are a vulnerable and misunderstood group, who are caught between a dangerous profession and a hostile society. This is why DECSA dedicates much of our resources to helping sex trade workers exit safely, get back on their feet, and secure mainstream employment. One of our greatest accomplishments is preparing these individuals to take control of their lives and build a brighter, healthier future.