How bad is it for my career if I don't appear mentally healthy?

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I feel pretty awkward asking this here, but I feel like this is where I would get the most accurate answers. I'm planning to do physics research in academia in the future, and, basically, I have permanent physical indicators that suggest I haven't always been emotionally stable. They're visible in some situations (ex. typing while doing computational work with a research adviser), and I can't hide them all the time. By how they appear, they could be anywhere from only a couple months to years old.

I may just be excessively concerned, but do you think people's impressions of me as a result might harm me in the future? Should I do whatever I can to hide them (which might mean wearing clothing that is completely inappropriate for warm weather), etc.? Or does no one care as long as I'm doing my job well?
 

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  • #2
phinds
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There will always be people who will be made nervous by such things but if you are indeed past your problems in that regard then just be yourself and don't worry about others, else you'll end up being paranoid. Trying to base your life on what others might think is unhealthy.
 
  • #3
Borek
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There is no simple answer, as it depends on the people you will be working with. Some don't care at all, some will freak out just because you have a minor tic.
 
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Make sure they have all seen " A Beautiful Mind"
 
  • #5
Astronuc
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I feel pretty awkward asking this here, but I feel like this is where I would get the most accurate answers. I'm planning to do physics research in academia in the future, and, basically, I have permanent physical indicators that suggest I haven't always been emotionally stable. They're visible in some situations (ex. typing while doing computational work with a research adviser), and I can't hide them all the time. By how they appear, they could be anywhere from only a couple months to years old.

I may just be excessively concerned, but do you think people's impressions of me as a result might harm me in the future? Should I do whatever I can to hide them (which might mean wearing clothing that is completely inappropriate for warm weather), etc.? Or does no one care as long as I'm doing my job well?
It is difficult to provide an answer since we do not know one's situation. Does it appear one has anxiety issues? It would be advisable to see a counselor or psychologist, or one's parents, to assess one's situation.

Ostensibly, one's mental health can be managed, such that one's mental state will not adversely affect one's productivity.
 
  • #6
Choppy
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In my experience, people in academic fields such as physics tend to be very open-minded and accepting. I think the big concern is that you actually ARE mentally healthy, or at least dealing with your mental health issues to the level that you're not a burden to anyone, and that you are capable of performing successfully in your program.

Another thing is that the physical evidence you're talking about may not actually be as obvious to other people as you may think. If you have scarred yourself in some way, someone working with you will not know that the scar was due to self-infliction or some kind of accident. And most people will respect the fact that something like that is none of their business.
 
  • #7
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I agree with this ^^, but I think when you see somebody's forearms you know what happened. Maybe thats just me because I have known people and had family with the same issue. Its pretty obvious and though its easy to act like it doesn't matter, you do take it in when you see it. Mental health, unlike physical health, has a social stigma attached to it and even well meaning open minded people will have thoughts on it. All you can do is wear long sleeve shirts and try to excel. You will be at a disadvantage due to this, but on the other hand most of us have disadvantages of some sort and of some magnitude we have to over come.

I think that you should absolutely do whatever you can to cover them in the early parts of your career and only after you have a positive track record of success can you let them out for all to see.

Edit - Also, I often wear long sleeve shirts in the summer due to sun damage and cancer risk. Wearing a regular cotton shirt would be uncomfortable and maybe a little weird. I wear a shirt like this which is light weight and cooler - http://www.gandermountain.com/modpe...Silver-Ridge-Solid-Long-Sleeve-Shirt&i=691458 Also, it can be rolled up to short sleeve and rolled back down to long sleeve on demand.
 
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I guess my main concerns are that people will misunderstand (as ModusPwnd says, there's a stigma against self-harm and people who do it) and that it'll cause me a lot of annoyance; there have been a couple times people saw my scars, reported them, and I ended up being brought against my will to speak to a counselor. How would such a situation be treated if I was an employee of a university instead of a student? Could this would continue to happen; does the university even have the right to do this?

Also, might it be particularly bad that I'll be a female in a male-dominated field? Should I be worried about ignorant people forming malicious stereotypes, or (because I'm sure the majority would be more understanding), does it not really matter if maybe one or two people think poorly of me?

I would like to just not care and not bother covering them up as some suggest, but I wonder whether that's not a feasible solution.
 
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  • #9
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I'm afraid you're asking us what other people will think. That's hard to answer.

That said, I suspect that most people are less concerned with the past and more concerned with the present and future. The mental health issues they are most concerned with are likely to be "Is this person likely to become violent?" and "Is this person capable of holding down the job?"
 
  • #10
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I would like to just not care and not bother covering them up as some suggest, but I wonder whether that's not a feasible solution.
I think its feasible, but not ideal. First impressions are important and stick with a person. I think you should keep your scars covered for first and initial impressions.

It's not the same... But I would like to be able to wear jeans to a career fair and not bother with a suit. But thats not ideal considering first impressions... So I go the uncomfortable and expensive route and wear a suit.
 
  • #11
StatGuy2000
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I think its feasible, but not ideal. First impressions are important and stick with a person. I think you should keep your scars covered for first and initial impressions.

It's not the same... But I would like to be able to wear jeans to a career fair and not bother with a suit. But thats not ideal considering first impressions... So I go the uncomfortable and expensive route and wear a suit.
You could go half way and dress in "business casual" (i.e. dress shirt and pants, minus the tie).
 
  • #12
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To the OP:

I tend to concur with Choppy -- someone working with you will not know that the scars on your arms is due to self-harm or to some sort of accident or sports injury, so I wouldn't be overly concerned about what your fellow researchers/co-workers may think. That being said, wearing a long-sleeve shirt in the office may, at least initially, may be beneficial.
 
  • #13
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Most people in this field are pretty accepting. As long as you explain your condition in advance to your employer and/or your colleagues you should not have much of a problem. Just make yourself as valuable to them as possible by doing good work.
 
  • #14
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I'm afraid you're asking us what other people will think. That's hard to answer.

That said, I suspect that most people are less concerned with the past and more concerned with the present and future. The mental health issues they are most concerned with are likely to be "Is this person likely to become violent?" and "Is this person capable of holding down the job?"
People with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than they are to be the perpetrators of it.
 
  • #15
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People with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than they are to be the perpetrators of it.
And so what? How does this affect the OPs question?
 
  • #16
symbolipoint
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I feel pretty awkward asking this here, but I feel like this is where I would get the most accurate answers. I'm planning to do physics research in academia in the future, and, basically, I have permanent physical indicators that suggest I haven't always been emotionally stable. They're visible in some situations (ex. typing while doing computational work with a research adviser), and I can't hide them all the time. By how they appear, they could be anywhere from only a couple months to years old.

I may just be excessively concerned, but do you think people's impressions of me as a result might harm me in the future? Should I do whatever I can to hide them (which might mean wearing clothing that is completely inappropriate for warm weather), etc.? Or does no one care as long as I'm doing my job well?
How are you, NOW? Are you aware of what ignites your problems and are you ready to control the problem at that instance?

You might well have visible indicators of emotional trouble in your history. Some of your possible supervisors may well have emotional instability right now, and without any obvious visual signals. Yet, somebody hired them.
 
  • #17
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My medical past is not as visible as yours is, but when I must mention it I find that the way I present it has a huge impact on how I am viewed.

For instance, if I dismiss it with a straightforward comment, in a tone which communicates that I do not need to concern myself with it anymore (whether this is a happy tone, noncommittal, joking, or whatever I feel like at the time), then people move on. The fact that I overcame that challenge then seems to be seen as a strength.

On the contrary, I have in some cases belaboured my condition, appeared to be unable to manage it, or overestimated my own wellness (in the mistaken belief that I could make my body do what I wanted it to do). Most people have been very understanding of this. However, a few people interpreted it as an inability for me to handle myself, and an inability to function in the academic world. One of these latter persons was someone in a position of power within a university, who could conceivably be asked for a reference by people whom I ask for supervision. (Luckily, that person retires soon.) So, I have found that when I am perceived to not be in control of my medical condition (mental or physical), then I can make impressions which hurt my open opportunities.

Technically, discrimination based on a mental or physical illness is illegal, at least in Ontario (Canada). However, I don't like to have to appeal to the law. Also, discrimination can be difficult to fight, since it can take the form of unfair negativity when someone is giving a references or speaking about the person who is discriminated against. Discrimination can of course work in your favour, as well: people who view you as strong because you overcame that illness might unfairly tilt your review towards the positive.

Whether the people who view you negatively end up having the power to effectively bar your progress in a certain direction is, I think, a subset of a more general question: how big of an impact can just a few people with unfavourable opinions of a candidate have on that candidate's career in academia? If those people do not clearly state why their views of the candidate are negative, as might happen with this case, would the candidate's prospects nevertheless be diminished?

Perhaps a more qualified person can step in for these last two questions.
 

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