Have You Ever Lied About Having a Mental Illness?

May 28, 2012 Chris Curry

Have you ever made up a white lie or two to cover up a gaping hole in your resume where a psychiatric hospitalization was considered to be your primary employment?

Have you ever told acquaintances that your fascination with mental health was born due to ‘some close personal friends and family members who have struggled?’

Have you ever lied about having a mental illness?

I have.

My Entire Life Was a Lie

I used to do it on a regular basis. My entire life was a lie. I went through college without telling one single person that I was once hospitalized for psychosis, as well as for a suicide attempt and a few months for a major depressive episode. I guess I wanted to be in the field before I came clean about my personal struggles with mental illness.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I work as a mental health and addictions counsellor so it isn’t all that surprising that I have suffered myself. My clients almost expect that I have and I am also granted the opportunity to be completely open and honest with my supervisors about my past. But, as I said, I’m one of the lucky ones.

If I was interviewing for a job as a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor or a salesman, there would have had to be a much more tumultuous inner debate before coming forth with the truth of my past.

The Tumultuous Inner Debate

If I was a cancer survivor, I don’t think I would have any problem telling a potential employer that I had fought and battled and won against cancer. If I suffered from diabetes, I doubt I would feel any anxiety prior to telling a potential employer about my condition.

But I suffer(ed) from mental illness. It’s just not something that you can bring up in a job interview.

I think we can change that.

Depression is referred to as the common cold of psychiatry. Think of how many times you hear your friends talking about their cold symptoms. How many times do you hear your friends talking about their symptoms of depression?

Let's Normalize Mental Illness

Let’s change that. One person at a time. When you feel alone and that no one in the world could possibly understand; try someone. When you sense the paranoia enveloping you from within; talk about it. When you can’t comprehend your own moods that are spiralling out of control from manic to depressed, let someone know.

The more everyone hears about it, the more normal it becomes.

Remember when the AIDS epidemic began? Although there is still a lot of work to be done, the last ten years have been monumental in the reduction of AIDS related stigma. Let’s do that for mental illness.

Talk. And not just for you.

For all of us.

The Completely in Blue website is here. Chris is also on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

APA Reference
Curry, C. (2012, May 28). Have You Ever Lied About Having a Mental Illness?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Chris Curry

May, 28 2012 at 10:28 am

Hi! I am currently an unemployed teacher who is bipolar. I am debating whether or not to tell employers/principals that I am bipolar; somehow saying it was depression seems like a safer route. My husband also has depression, and I spent some time at home with him as well. My resume shows a 7 year gap(took masters level courses and flunked out due to bipolar depression), so I'm not real sure what to do.

Chris Curry
May, 28 2012 at 11:27 am

Thank you for the comment and I'm truly sorry to hear about your situation. Although I cannot advise you specifically because I don't know your situation, I would certainly advise you to talk with a counsellor/therapist/psychiatrist before making a decision about whether or not to be open.
However, keep in mind that everyone at least knows someone with a mental illness, so there is a good chance that they could be more understanding than you may originally assume.
Best of luck to you and I hope that everything works out.

May, 29 2012 at 5:42 am

I liked your article a lot. Although I have never lied about my mental illness, however when I was hospitalized I thought to myself that I was better than the rest of the patients who had mental illness and that my level of functioning was higher than theirs. Soon I realized that despite my level of functioning, I had a mental illness and knew that my symptoms of mental illness were similar to theirs.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Chris Curry
June, 1 2012 at 11:19 am

Thank you for the kind words.

May, 29 2012 at 2:14 pm

I have one up on this question, how bout when you lie to yourself about your mental issues.
I was diagnosed at an early age as bipolar but even then I never opened up about any of my issues. They only saw my behavior, I never told them I saw and heard things, that people were following me, that my nieghbor was video taping me, tapping my phones.
I still havnt told a doc about my most darkest secrets. I havnt told my friends or anyone besides my husband and now here I am posting it publicly.
I dealt with it by playing it off...or saying its a character flaw which I tried to fix for years, I can't fix my brain. I cannot be or act normal, the more I try the worse I feel about myself.
Has anyone else been in as much denial as I have been? To the point if a psych asks you if you hear voices and you tell them no while at the same time telling the loud booming voices to shut up in your head? Just writing this I laugh, god its just so ridiculous.
I need to tell people I need to talk to a doc and accept I may have something more than just bipolar, I can barely admit that to myself.
If you have accepted it; that's half the battle of living successfully with mental illness. Now we just have to get the world to accept it.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Chris Curry
June, 1 2012 at 11:34 am

You raise an interesting point. It is very true that we have the tendency to not even admit it to ourselves, but it is certainly a crucial element of getting better.
There is great help available out there and people with major mental illness have proven time and time again that upon finding the right medication, they can fit perfectly into society.
Keep talking.

Elaine Jones
May, 30 2012 at 2:42 am

"Remember when the AIDS epidemic began? Although there is still a lot of work to be done, the last ten years have been monumental in the reduction of AIDS related stigma. Let’s do that for mental" I find this article very surreal to me because after watching Phlidephia with Tom Hanks last night I said something similar to my husband and now I know I am not the only one thinking this. Great article and yes I have lied or mostly not told ppl I have it. Thanks for sharing this.

May, 31 2012 at 5:38 pm

I love how everyone says talk about it. Like there are always people around to talk to or the depressed person is capable of talking about it. Sometimes it is not always possible

June, 5 2012 at 1:54 pm

Thank you for this topic. I lie to myself and have been in therapy and meds for years. I silently think always; what if I am not bipolar; what if it is a misdiagnosis. I always ask my therapist,"Am I really bipolar?" The answer is always yes and the meds have been helpful...So there it is. I also do not tell many people due to trust issues; only tell closest of family and friends. It warmed my heart when my parents took a course from NAMI for parents of bipolar adults. They know more than me! This is a first that I am opening up. Thank you again.

Chris Curry
June, 5 2012 at 2:22 pm

No problem! Thank you for reading. Keep opening up, so long as it is to the right people. The more we talk about it, the less stigmatized it will be.

July, 9 2012 at 6:31 pm

Actually, I do think I would not be too up front with any potential employer about any ongoing illness before being hired. Healthcare cost concerns (they don't want their premiums going up), potential for absenteism, etc. But that said, severe mental illness is one of the worst things that I could think of to disclose- and I work in healthcare. I have had to be very creative about certain periods of time in the past, let's leave it at that. Fortunately my current job is very supportive, and I have been there long enough that I am starting to feel like I could reveal more. But people don't have a clue that someone like me could be in 4 point restraints, and I'm not sure it is really relevant. My psychosis was due to antidepressant-induced mania, but it was bad.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Chris Curry
July, 14 2012 at 11:36 am

And that's a choice we all have to make on an individual, and hopefully, educated basis.

August, 26 2012 at 3:07 am

Hi Chris,
I have a mental illness and am trained as a social worker.
I finished uni in April, just before u wrote this post. I paraded myself as a success story, applied for a job in homelessness/MH and was completely honest about my issues. They often employ people 'in recovery' and I thought they would support me.
I relapsed. They have now put me on 'unpaid leave' indefinitely. I now can no longer pay rent and even getting a menial job is proving to be difficult.
I hate them. I experience a lot of violent thoughts (ie. wait outside till the mangers finish... show them what it feels like to be humiliated...)
I am scared, I have no money and my partner can no longer deal with me.
Can u give me some hope?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Chris Curry
September, 23 2012 at 1:33 am

Hi Jay,
I wish I could offer you some sort of guidance that would solve your problems, but unfortunately, life is always much more complex than a series of simple answers. I urge you to talk about your violent thoughts with a trained mental health professional and also urge you to please not act on them. It will only make a bad situation much, much worse, for you and anyone else involved.
Keep your head up. I know it's hard now, but if you put your mind to it, things get better.
Prove to yourself that you are that success story that you once paraded yourself as.
All my very best,

Mental Illness in The Workplace | Recovering from Mental Illness
November, 1 2012 at 12:09 pm

[...] options (let me know if we have more!): Be open and have an honest dialogue with your employer or keep your mental illness to yourself. Living with a mental illness is personal, and it is not something we share with everyone, but in [...]

January, 12 2013 at 8:39 am

"My career would be ruined if I had psych treatment for suicide on my medical record anyway." Ken from ~Stone of Conscience~ "I can neither suffer nor delight in the human condition for the man made conditions that obscure it." Sa from ~Conundrum~

Elise M.
January, 21 2013 at 6:42 pm

Many of my co-workers as well as my supervisors do not know about my mental illness (major depression, ED-NOS, and borderline personality disorder). I do have FMLA to use if I am hospitalized or cannot come into work, but I use it sparingly.
I find that in my line of work, I need to keep a certain image. I am a RN on an inpatient adolescent psychiatric unit. Those who know my struggles tell me they make me a better caregiver, more understanding and empathetic. But I am still terrified to be labeled as "incompetent" if people are made aware of my mental illness.

November, 15 2013 at 10:27 am

Hi Jay, I know exactly how you feel. I worked as a substance abuse/MH counselor, as an intern working toward my certification, for a year and a half (I was halfway there). I loved my clients, and they loved me, and I had actually made a real difference with some, whereas other staff (with no personal experience with the issues) had basically given up on them. Then, state cuts in Medicaid happened. They basically turned on ME, with a vengeance. They didn't want to even pay me unemployment so, they tried to make me quit, by making my life a living hell. I was NOT going to let them win. I stayed (until they "had to let me go because, I just couldn't keep up with the paperwork") kept my cool, made notes and fought for my rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the right way, with my doc standing up for me & my good character) for my unemployment. And I won. I hated them, too, and had thoughts that were not the nicest as well. Luckily, I did not act on them and, life went on, although it was difficult for awhile. But I survived. I lost my home and ended up out in the boonies staying in a vacant room of someone I knew. Thank God for foodstamps! That was my last "real" job. But I finally won my disability and got a little apartment, back in civilization and I'm okay. Remember, this too shall pass. Stay strong, keep your cool and I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Good luck to you my friend.

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