Mental health and employment

by Liz Lockhart

I have just read a story from a man who suffers from anxiety and depression which got me thinking.  This man has been lucky enough to be accepted for 15 different jobs in the last 3 years but has been forced to leave them all as they expected a minimum of 40 hours work a week and were too demanding for him.

Whilst many of us want to feel fulfilled in the workplace and to earn a decent living-wage, I think that it is important that we manage our expectations.

I can remember coming back from a doctor's appointment when I was on the road to recovery from my period of anxiety and agoraphobia.  I had mentioned that I had applied for an office job in a local college and he had thrown his arm up in despair, asking me 'Why can't you be content with a less demanding position?'  At first I felt insulted because I felt he thought I was in some way incapable.  In fact, with hindsight, he was right.  I was not yet ready for the 'rough and tumble' of a demanding job.

There are, in my opinion, two vital questions we should consider before we jump back into the workplace. Are our stress-coping mechanisms up to the test of the demands of full time employment?..and...What would it do to our recovery if we tried and failed?  In other words how would we feel if we felt that we had let our employer and ourselves down by having to walk away from a position?

After a period of anxiety it is a good idea to be kind and gentle to ourselves.  It may be necessary to find a position in which we can feel confident and happy whilst earning what we require rather than being stressed out from a demanding high-paid job. 

It is a case of quality of life.  Have realistic expectations and don't take on more than you can handle.  I know that perfectionism can come hand in hand with anxiety which pushes us on to achieve more than average.  This in turn puts an unbearable strain on us and can be counterproductive.

Good luck to all of you who are looking for work - may the position you long for be yours.


I have suffered from anxiety and depression for many years and over the last 8 have applied for and secured 3 jobs. Each of which I have had to leave due to being unable to cope. I'm now afraid to try again, having hidden myself for 3 years. I just know that to fail again would be competely devastating. Now I sit here on benefits waiting for the ineveitable benefit re-examination. Knowing I will be deemed fit to work because my illness is invisible also knowing the same thing will almost certainly happen again. It's such a painful vicious circle.

Yes I know personally just how vicious that circle can be. As you fear that your benefit may be stopped you should check out your rights. A very good place to start is to call SANELine 0845 767 8000. They are so knowledgable and helpful and could well put your mind at rest. Thank you so much for taking the time to contact us. Your situation is one that I take a particular interest in because of my own experiences. Take care, keep strong, I did it - managed to get better and to hold down a demanding job but it took small steps and a lot of time. I wish you every success on your road to total recovery. Liz

Mental health and employment that's a big subject. Every employer will say they don't discriminate, but think about it, if you were an employer and had two or three candidates and one had any health condition that could effect their work in one way or another you would have to consider what's nest for your business. It would be great to see gov or charity support who h would mean supported employment for those with higher needs.

Thanks for contacting me. I have though long and hard about your comments. I suppose we can but hope for a perfect world one day. I wonder who would decide who has the highest needs.
I would hope that if you had the skills to fit the job then you would be considered on merit alone.
Thanks again

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