Jobseekers told to call their depression ‘low mood’ on applications

Woman  with her head in her hands

An estimated 1.8m million people have depression in England and about 250,000 have ME. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Welfare officials have urged jobseekers who have depression to hide their diagnosis and only admit on work applications that they are experiencing “low mood”.

Jobcentre Plus advisers have told people looking for work to “avoid words that sound worse than they are” and “avoid terms such as depression” when drafting CVs and filling in applications. The advice has been attacked by health campaigners as an “outrage” which will reinforce stigmas about the condition.

The advice surfaced when a jobseeker in Dorset posted a leaflet online, about producing a “positive health statement”, he had received from his jobcentre. It also said they should not reveal they have myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), but instead say they have “a fatigue-related condition”.

The jobseeker, who has a long-term health problem, said: “I’m frankly at a loss at what I am going to say – and certain words and phrases such as ‘chronic’ and ‘ME’ are apparently banned.”

The leaflet came from the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Jobcentre Plus facility in Poole and advised: “You may wish to avoid terms such as depression, ME or low back pain and use more general terms such as low mood or a mental health condition, a fatigue-related condition, an ongoing pain condition etc.”

An estimated 1.8 million people have depression in England and around 250,000 have ME.

The mental health charity Mind said the advice was “really worrying” as the law provided protection to disabled people, including those with mental health problems, if their disability has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on normal daily activities.

“Anyone who discloses a mental health problem at work deserves to be treated with respect, and jobcentres should not be reinforcing stigma by advising people not to disclose,” said Ayaz Manji, a senior policy officer at Mind. “People with mental health problems have just as much to offer as anyone else in the workplace, and it’s right that this advice is being challenged.”

Sonya Chowdhury, the chief executive of the charity Action for ME, said: “We are outraged that [people with ME] are being told to keep quiet about the reality of their experience. At least 250,000 people in the UK have their lives devastated by ME but this impact is not seen. Minimising ME as a ‘fatigue-related condition’ is at best misleading and at worst potentially damaging to someone experiencing a range of potential symptoms for which they need specialist support.”

A spokesperson for the DWP said it was “well-intentioned local advice” but had been withdrawn “as we would always encourage jobseekers to speak freely about a health condition or disability”.

Similar advice was previously circulated by the Dorset Healthcare NHS trust.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the shadow disabilities minister, Marsha De Cordova, attacked the advice, saying: “In essence the DWP are encouraging disabled people to downplay their disability or health condition.”

[“source=theguardian”]