- Change the record (campaign tackling unemployment)
This post is going to go a little differently because I think opinions and experiences where employment are concerned differ a lot. So, to prove my point I have a story for each point:
Even the shittiest job can be a good experience:
My first ever job was delivering newspapers and although I hated my boss and the area I had to cover, there's a man who I used to post a paper to almost 8 years ago and he still waves at me when I pass his window.
How mental health can affect employment:
I got a job at a large retail store while I was in Sixth Form. I'd handed my CV in yonks ago and then I suddenly got a call to be hired as Christmas temp staff. At my interview the HR lady commented on how I hadn't had any experience and I was so sick of hearing this from interviews that I turned around and said "no, I haven't and I never will have until someone gives me that first opportunity!" She said that reminded her of her own daughter and I was hired! Apparently they took on over 100 staff for the Christmas period and made 10 permanent. I was one of them. I loved work; I got on well with my supervisors, I made a lot of friends and enjoyed the feeling of maturity from having a job and doing overtime. When I was made permanent I was trained for the fitting rooms which was a very stressful job (it's seriously underestimated) and shortly after that I started experiencing my first auditory hallucination. I actually first heard him as I was leaving the store at then end of my shift and I remember looking all around to see who'd spoke and the closest male was a supervisor doing random bag checks at the door and the voice I'd heard sounded like it was right by my ear. I was still working at the store when I took my first overdose and was sectioned. I had to have a back-to-work interview and one of the questions was to give them the name of the Hospital I'd stayed in. I couldn't lie so I told them that it hadn't been a 'proper medical one;' was so scared that I'd be fired if they heard I'd been sectioned. After that, I was on the tills and there was so much going on, I can remember everyone kept threatening to walk out because management were annoying people and my auditory hallucination; Albert was telling me to get out of there. There was so much noise; the customers, children screaming, the store announcements, the phone ringing, the till numbers being called to the queue, people chattering... my head just added to the noise and I couldn't stand it so I walked out. I guess I knew that eventually things were going to get out of hand and I thought I'd rather quit than be fired.
Take the good with the bad
Since then, I've never been able to hold down a job for more than a few months so I gave up searching for paid work and started volunteering. My first was at a charity shop for Mind, and I seemed to be (other than the Manager and Deputy Manager) the only worker without a learning difficulty which meant that I quickly got a lot of responsibilities, to the point where when the Manager was off and the Deputy Manager covered, I covered for the Deputy Manager. The store gave me a lot of experience as I didn't just do retail assistant things; I had managerial tasks too like paying volunteer's expenses and processing donations. I also got my first experience of window displays and realised I absolutely loved it! So I guess I have them to thank for showing me what career I'd like. The happiness didn't last though; one time, I overdosed before going in for my shift and when I couldn't stop vomiting and the Manager paid for a taxi to A&E, I knew my time there was running out. When she asked if they'd found out what was wrong I told her I'd took too much of my medication. I can't quite remember what happened on my last day; I guess I was poorly (if I'm very mentally unwell then I don't tend to remember what happened) but I remember them making me go home with one of the other staff and them speaking to my CPN as I ran from them and refused to answer the door once I was in my home. I never went back. That experience helped me in forming an opinion on whether I should tell employers about my mental health. I decided that for as long as I could hide it, I would. And when I couldn't, I'd quit.
I believe that as long as my mental health affects my work then employers should know, and I recognise that having a job and going to work will aid my recovery. It's not just motivation to get up but also, I like to have something outside of this Hospital that is important and helpful to my future makes everything seem a bit more useful; to think that I really do need to get better and work through things so that I can work more hours and train for the role I want.
I think a massive improvement needed in this area, is evidence of different brands and organisations etc. supporting employees with ill mental health. Also, there needs to be more support for service users to access work whilst undergoing therapy or treatment etc. And especially for long-term wards like mine; there should be some programmes for patients to work or volunteer with local businesses as they get nearer to recovery.