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Dear Salt&Light,

I have clinical depression and I took a couple of months off to seek counselling. It may still affect me when I go back to work, as I lose focus at times and perhaps need to take more breaks. How do I tell my potential employers about my condition without jeopardising my application? 

Alicia L, 30, Unemployed

It has never been easy to admit that we once sought psychological help, especially here in Asia, where the culture creates a belief that having a mental disorder reflects something wrong within one’s family or within oneself.

There is always that fear of people finding out and judging us. We end up hiding our embarrassing problems from our friends, sometimes even from our own family.

Such stigma has been propagated in society, and not every employer is sympathetic. How can we handle this stigma in the workforce?

We cannot lie about our condition but we can make it work for us by highlighting our victory over it, instead of focusing on our perceived failures. Victories are real while failures are merely a matter of perception. 

We cannot lie about our condition but we can make it work for us by highlighting our victory.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NKJV)

We have seen this truth in the story of Joseph, Moses, David and Solomon. We have seen this with the Apostles. Above all, we see this in Jesus Christ.

Through the eyes of the world, the cross was perceived as His defeat and failure. But in truth, it illustrated the power of God for the salvation of many.

There are many advantages to your having gone through depression. Bring what you have learnt through your plight into your next job interview – not just to avoid being judged negatively, but to be viewed in a more positive light.

  • Should you announce it? In most cultures, it is insensitive to burden others with our personal struggles. However if the interviewer asks, we cannot deny or lie to them. When asked, share your story without shame or guilt. Keep in mind that most people do not know how to react to someone’s mental illness and will usually base their reactions on what you share. Keep your stories short, honest and direct to the point – no more than five minutes. Carry on with the rest of the interview after that. 
  • Show awareness and growth. When you talk to your interviewer, make sure that you tell them how you got depressed and how you got over the depression. Doing this will trigger empathy and help them to understand you better. Sharing how you got over depression or what you are currently doing about it will show your resilience and resourcefulness. Once again, you are capable of turning a trial in your life into something positive.
  • Dress well and feel good. You can boost your confidence and people’s perception of you by dressing well. If you groom yourself, you will feel great and this will reflect in other people’s opinion of you. Go for a swim or a jog on the morning of the interview. This will boost your day’s energy and contribute to how your present yourself.
  • Focus on the job, not yourself. Depressed people suffer from too much self-focus. What the company wants to know is whether you can get the job done. Highlight what you can do for the company rather than your excuses for the past or for the future. Avoid feeling insecure over how people perceive you because you cannot really tell what people are thinking anyway. There is very little chance they are fixated on your condition. 

Following these tips is no easy task, especially if the person is in the midst of their grieving. However, obtaining a job will be beneficial in a lot of ways, so this is what you should concentrate on.  

Share your story without shame or guilt. Most people base their reactions on what you share.

People will only view your depression negatively if you yourself are ashamed of it. Instead, carry it as a lamp to be placed on top of a hill and declare: I was once targeted by the enemy but Christ Jesus has conquered it.

We are not defiled based on what people say or think about us. It is all about what we say about ourselves. Depression will only be a weakness if you use it against yourself.

As a child of God, through Christ Jesus, it is a stamp of wisdom, of warfare, of conquests and victories.

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About the author

Kirby Chua

Kirby Chua is the counselling supervisor and the coordinator of Grace Counselling Centre, a private Christian counselling centre in Singapore. Chua has been in practice since 1999 and has trained thousands of counsellors and psychologists in both Philippines and Singapore. He is the author of The Bible's Secrets to Counselling, published by Armour Publishing.