As more workplaces embrace diversity, HR leaders have to deal with the challenges of dealing with different personalities and minds. One of the most difficult personality types to deal with, according to Bevan et al. study, is distrustful personality. This lack of trust is threatening and sometimes a manifestation of some dysfunctional personality issues where one person can be so paranoid that they are dissociated from reality. Psychologists diagnose this mental illness as paranoid schizophrenia.
Psychiatry Specialist Arnold Lieber, MD. wrote that paranoid schizophrenia is the most common subtype of schizophrenia disorder, characterised by predominantly positive symptoms of schizophrenia, including delusions and hallucinations. These debilitating symptoms blur the line between what is real and what is not, making it difficult for a person to lead a typical life. In most cases, the disorder can be diagnosed in late adolescence to early adulthood, between the ages of 18 to 30. It is highly unusual for schizophrenia to be diagnosed after age 45 or before age 16.
Schizophrenia has a crucial effect on educational and employment opportunities of the sufferer, meaning that working-age groups with schizophrenia disorder might have some disability to function normally in the workplace. This, however, should not be the reason for unfair treatment towards them. In fact, The World Health Organisation on Schizophrenia and Public Health mentioned that employed individuals with schizophrenia can work fairly normally depending upon the severity of the illness, the nature of their symptoms, and upon a person’s skills and interests. That said, individuals with paranoid schizophrenia can work at a higher seniority level, as a manager or supervisor for example.
Further, Bevan et al. cited that individuals with paranoid schizophrenia who receives treatment can continue to work properly. Research showed that those in paid employment are over five times more likely to achieve functional remission than those who are unemployed or in unpaid employment, indicating that work brings clear health benefits for people with schizophrenia. A considerable proportion of working-age people with a history of schizophrenia are able and willing to work, despite repeatedly expressing the need for job training, placement and support services.
For people with schizophrenia who are employed, fear of discrimination has been highlighted as the reason why they choose not to disclose their condition. According to Bevan et al, none of the participants with lived experience of schizophrenia had been open about their condition at work. The reason is that these individuals want to have control of their condition, making them less defined by their conditions.
Therefore, it is vital for HR to make fair adjustments and have policy and rules in place to provide fairness under Disability and Mental Illness Act, encouraging these individuals to speak up about their condition. This way, it could help the company provide support and reasonable adjustments for individuals with schizophrenia to remain at work.
Here are some things HR can do to make daily interactions with employees with paranoid schizophrenia easier.
Disclosure – the act of telling other individuals about mental illness is an issue that is vital to a successful recovery. However, doing so without concern of the said employees might violate their privacy. Make sure to discuss this matter with the employee and/or caregiver (if any) before making an announcement.
It is advisable for HR to communicate about company’s protection law and practice regarding this issue, therefore, employees with schizophrenia paranoia will feel protected from any unethical behaviour during their work life. As an example, HR can tell the employees or caregiver that their right as an employee is vital to the employer and any information given to employer will be confidential. On the other hand, however, sharing the diagnosis of the illness to other co-workers can help the recovery process in the workplace.