Approximately 58 million Americans — one in four adults – experience a mental health impairment in a given year (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2007). One in seventeen individuals lives with serious mental health impairment (National Institute of Mental Health, 2008). So the chances are that at some point you’ll be interviewing or hiring someone with a mental impairment. How should you handle it?
It takes the EEOC 56 pages to define a mental disability; and the list of potential disabilities is long: bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, PSTD, schizophrenia, and dozens of others. The bottom line: Every one of the maladies has a limitation associated with it, such as an inability to concentrate, interact with others, remember things or handle stress.
Before making a job offer, an employer can ask if an applicant has the ability to meet the essential job functions of the position- with or without accommodation. If their disability is immediately noticeable, you may ask if you need to adjust any interview or testing formats to accommodate them.
Once an offer is made, you can dig deeper into any limitations to determine if the person is mentally “fit for duty.” Your best bet is to work with a certified occupational medicine physician when conducting this analysis. Also consider JAN for mental accommodation ideas.