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I Disclosed My Suicide Attempt in My Cover Letter

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

After being hospitalized for attempting suicide, I could not work for two years. I started writing articles sharing my mental health challenges under an alias name because I was embarrassed and ashamed. My biggest fear was employers seeing my articles and viewing me as unreliable, incompetent, and “crazy.” When I started applying to jobs and got to the section asking me to disclose if I had a disability, I always selected no. Two of the disabilities on the list were major depressive and bipolar disorder, and I received both diagnoses.

When I finally started applying, I pursued my peer recovery specialist certification through the Maryland Addiction and Behavioral Health Professionals Certification Board. This credential provides me with training to use my experience living with a mental health condition to coach and mentor others in recovery. As a peer specialist, it implies you live with a mental health or substance use disorder. When I applied to jobs, I could show up as myself. I was fortunate to have a supervisor who supported my mental health. I had multiple relapses, and I never had to worry about stigma or losing my job.

As I was preparing to transition from providing peer support to a communications role, I decided to show up as myself again, even though this position would not reveal I had mental health challenges. I wrote in my cover letter that I have bipolar disorder and attempted suicide. I talked about it during five rounds of interviews. While I have two communication degrees and over 10 years of experience, I sent a portfolio and thank you e-mails to each interviewer without being asked. Guess what? They offered me the job. My supervisor and coworkers told me my transparency set me apart from other candidates because it shows I understand the importance of their mission.

Both experiences taught me to continue to live in my truth, advocate for myself, and if an environment does not support my health, it is not for me. My openness helps to end the stigma. I hope employers are open to hiring people like me and those in recovery aren’t afraid to express their challenges and leave places that cause their mental health to decline.

Getty image by nortonrsx

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