It has been reported recently that between 2006 and 2010 unemployment for mental health sufferers rose by 5.5%. This is twice as much as the unemployment rate for anybody else which was 2.7%. You may ask why? Honest answer is, I’m not sure and I don’t think one single person anywhere knows. A mix of gaps within CVs and vulnerability probably had something to do with it but that is speculation. Although I dislike this statistic, I can’t say I’m surprised!
Somebody recently told me that I probably wasn’t the ‘right sort of person’ to do a stressful job. They then went on to explain that a stressful job, in their opinion, was anything with strict deadlines or a high pressure environment. In short; most jobs. They suggested that I take some time out to do some ‘mindless admin work’ just to earn a bit of money. To say I was offended (and most admin workers should be too) is a bit of an understatement. I know deep down that they were simply looking out for me and didn’t want me to end up in the same situation again. However, sometimes it is nice to think about the implications of what you are saying.
My mental health problems have taken over my life for the past 6 months, I’m the first to admit that, however they do not define me as a person nor do they change who I am. So in answer to this rather cheeky remark I’ve made a list of 5 reasons to employ people with a history of mental health problems:
1) Our previous health problems have been nothing short of debilitating and we appreciate that a headache is no reason to miss a day of work. Nor is ‘Man Flu’.
2) We may not have been very good at dealing with stress in the past, however in our recovery we’ve learnt techniques to help us deal with that. Therefore we’re probably better at dealing with deadlines and high pressure environments than most others.
3) We’ve learnt how to get on with life and work despite struggling on the inside. There’s no need to worry about a break up or a bad day making us unproductive.
4) If we’ve overcome suicidal feelings I’m pretty sure we can overcome anything.
5) We may worry about things having to be perfect, so there is nobody better to produce the perfect bit of work for you!
I’m fully aware that some employers may answer back with 100 reasons not to employ people with a history of mental health problems but in my opinion it shows a complete lack of understanding of what they actually are. As I said above, mental health problems don’t define you as a person unless you let them and the majority of people don’t. The good old cliché of ‘they’ve made me stronger’ is true for a lot of people and proves all of the reasons I stated above. People who have suffered from any sort of Anxiety or Depression keep an eye out for early warning signs and many of us are actually on medication that controls the chemical reactions in our brain causing all this – because that is all it is!
This summer I’m working, revising and still managing to fit in some sort of social life around that all. A lot of people I know without the problems I’ve had are sitting on a sofa watching TV on their phones all day! There is nothing wrong with either of these. I’m making use of my summer to earn a bit of money and finish off the last of second year exams while others are having a break from a year of hard work. The one question I’d ask is, am I coping with life any worse than anybody else? No I’m not. One day I’m going to go and do a job just like everybody else and I’m hoping I’ll leave the last 6 months behind me and never have to revisit it. Realistically I’m sure it will come back to haunt me in some way at the most unexpected of times, however for now I can turn my back on it and just be another one of those graduates (to be) looking for a job.