Early Intervention Is Key
I now use mood charts and mark my highest and lowest mood points throughout each day so I can keep an eye on how “normal” my moods are. They are fantastic for spotting any signs and symptoms so I can put a plan in place to prevent exacerbation.
I often view managing the ups and downs of bipolar, mentally and physically, as a full-time job because it impacts life on a daily basis. For those of us who are employed it is similar to juggling two jobs, which is very hard.
If we focus on what we need to keep us well, monitor our moods, and speak up to everyone around us we are doing our best to manage ourselves, which in turn will have a positive impact on our work.
Why Is Employment so Important in Recovery?
In addition to finding a purpose, we need to build confidence, independence and feel empowered. One of the biggest things when dealing with mental illness is the loss of control.
When medical intervention is required, it can be even worse as we deal with the side effects of medication or even face hospitalization, which takes away any independence you had before. You give yourself up to the powers of the illness, but hope helps you find yourself again!
Employment can provide independence and empowerment through financial stability. When we can pay our bills and have disposable income, we can support ourselves and our families, which is a great responsibility. When I struggled with money it closed many doors for me and brought me back to that nagging feeling of failure.
Social inclusion is also extremely important. I remember being discharged from the hospital and finding myself alone in my home with weekly visits from my community psychiatric nurse. I was isolated with my thoughts and almost wished I was back with the other inpatients. At least I had people there who understood me.
Work offers you the chance to communicate, learn and laugh with others. We can’t always get along with other colleagues, but people change our attitudes on life and distract us from plaguing thoughts. It is also great to receive positive feedback. It makes us feel good and motivates us to continue working.
Are We Treated Fairly?
I desperately want to say yes, but careful research shows we are still very much battling stigma, which is a shame.
I volunteer with Mental Health First Aid England and many businesses are finally waking up to the fact that we need a happier working culture with open door policies and better understanding of mental health issues. There is also a growing awareness of the cost to businesses due to absenteeism and I believe this is driving them to make significant changes.
These U.K. statistics were taken from The Guardian) in 2007, so I predict the numbers have improved since then. However, they are both interesting and shocking:
- 40 percent of people said they were denied a job because of their history of psychiatric treatment and about 60 percent say they have been put off applying for a job as they expect to be dealt with unfairly.
- 38 percent of employers said they would not employ someone with a mental illness.
- Eight out of 10 of company directors said their company had no formal policy to deal with stress and mental ill health and only 14 percent of those that did felt it was effective
Do We Disclose Our Illnesses?
We don’t have to.
In America, the Disabilities Act forbids companies from firing people with mental health conditions as long as they can do the “essential” functions of the job and this is currently being strengthened with regards to the hiring and treatment of people with physical and mental disabilities. (New York Times, 2014)
The UK Equality Act 2010 banned discrimination against people with disabilities due to mental health problems. They state that it is not necessary to prove that a mental health problem affects your ability to do specific tasks. (Time to Change UK)