There is no doubt that much has been done to broadly reduce the stigma of poor mental health, but in the working world, there is often still a culture of silence and shame that can impact an individual’s wellbeing and career.

As a result, Mindler, has today announced a new campaign #OwnTheGap, aiming to encourage people who have had to take a career break due to mental health to confidently take control of this gap and not hide it from existing or future employers.

Many people feel they need to hide their mental illness in fear of what employers or colleagues will think due to stigma, even sometimes needing to take time off work on a long-term basis.

Mindler lead psychologist Dr. Siobhan Jones says: “If you need to take time off work for mental health reasons, you may have concerns about how to report this on your CV in the future – how do you explain this? What will potential new employers think of you and your ability to perform?”

According to NHS England, 40% of the population experience mental illness. Additionally, as many as 300,000 people even lose their job every year due to their mental health2, says an independent government-commissioned review, meaning that thousands of people will be left with a gap.

Siobhan recognises that a career gap may impact people when trying to return to the workplace: “You may be worrying about missed opportunities, promotions, feel less confident in your abilities, and feel nervous about returning to the workplace, or even attending interviews.”

Ahead of World Mental Health Day 10 October, this is something that digital psychologist service Mindler is choosing to highlight for the #OwnTheGap campaign. The purpose of #OwnTheGap is to get more people to share their experiences of mental illness in order to help reduce the stigma in the workplace. Individuals are encouraged to update their LinkedIn profile with any gaps, and share this with their network.

But how do you explain this gap when interviewing for a new job? Siobhan provides her top tips on owning the gap:

  1. Be honest: “If you have a gap in your career, be honest and model this honesty for others. If this seems overwhelming to talk about in an interview setting, try practicing what you would say to a supportive friend.”

  2. Don’t feel ashamed: “You shouldn’t need to feel embarrassed about needing to take some time out. There can be times that the pressures of work and ignoring these pressures could lead to burnout. The impact of burnout can be significant and take a long time to recover from.”

  3. Recognise the benefits of a career gap: “Taking time out can reduce the risk of burnout and show employers that you’re self-aware enough to know when to look after yourself and what your stress signs and triggers are.”

  4. Focus on your strengths: Having a mental health condition does not make you a poor employee. Talk about what makes you great, what sets you apart and how your skills align with the job description.”

What should employers bear in mind?

Siobhan warns employers to be cautious about making wrong assumptions and discarding those who have gaps in their CV.

“Be gently curious about why there is a gap and what the candidate learned during this time rather than focussing on the difficulties that took place.

“It is those who have been through difficulties that are more likely to be resilient. By making assumptions and not hiring or noticing those candidates that have a CV gap, you are not helping stigma to be broken. This is everyone’s responsibility.” adds Siobhan.