Mentally ill feel like 'damaged goods'

Mentally ill feel like ‘damaged goods’

By Liz Lockhart

A federal parliamentary inquiry was told that seeking work as someone with a mental illness feels like ‘trying to sell damaged goods’.

Before the inquiry panel was an Adelaide woman, Sarah Reece, who is a client of the support group Mental Illness Fellowship South Australia.

About 10,000 people are helped by the group each year. The group offers programs and services to people who suffer with a range of mental illness.

Ms Reece told the inquiry into mental health and workforce participation of her continued attempts to find a job or to study at university while struggling with a mental illness it is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald.

She said that it is almost impossible to secure a job interview and if she did she was competing against people who did not have unexplained gaps in their work history.

‘Handing in a job application feels like I’m trying to sell damaged goods, Ms Reece said last week.

The inquiry also heard how who had three failed attempts to return to university study after being struck down with her illness.

‘The attitude was that I should go away and get better and then re-engage,’ she said.

‘The problem is re-engaging is part of getting better. There was a line in my world that I couldn’t get over.’

Natasha Miliotis, chief executive of Mental Illness Fellowship South Australia, said that for people with a mental illness, undergoing training or study or reaching an employment goal was important to their health, wellbeing and self-esteem.

She also said that her organisation was concerned with helping those people who sometimes ‘fell between the cracks’, who might not appear sick enough to need help.

The inquiry continues and we hope to report on their findings.

Although this account is from Australia it is just as relevant here in the UK.  People who suffer from a mental disorder often find exactly the same reaction when applying for work or training.


Relevant links

Should we admit to mental health problems at work

Bullying in the workplace

The work/life balance.

Hooked on anxiety?

Time for employers to adopt new attitude to mental ill health 

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