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Case Study - Returning to Work after Mental Illness

Returning to Work after Mental Illness - Maureen's Story

"First time I tried (returning to work) was going back to Market Research Interviewing.

"What helped was having a sympathetic supervisor who was willing to give me the kind of work I felt capable of completing successfully. I did not feel I wanted to share and she did not ask for all of the facts. I assumed that had she known of my diagnosis (at that time Paranoid Schizophrenia) she may have had reservations about employing me. There is generally a lot of ignorance about mental illness and a lot of people will lie or withhold information about their health in order to get or retain a job. I would imagine for a lot of employers illness of any kind is perceived in terms of avoidable expenditure. People say they are all right because mental illness is largely perceived as a sign of a weak character. 'If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen'. I let my supervisor assume what she wanted about my 'depression' and she did not pressure me to take on anything I felt unable to complete.

"For instance, I no longer felt secure door knocking or conducting one to ones generally. I felt unable to project my self in a sufficiently positive way. To be successful in Market Research one needs to think on the fly and re phrase anything that may be construed negatively. As my confidence grew I took on more ambitious projects that involved working in diverse venues i.e. train stations, on trains, petrol service stations, supermarkets etc. I found the panic was always just below the surface and had to work constantly at controlling it. Within six months I had another break down and another stay on a Psychiatric Ward. Recovery was much longer.

"I was approached by DGS Mind with the possibility of becoming a Trustee within six months of my second break down and, having been reassured that I would be eased into the role, I accepted. The first and most important development was a frank discussion with the C.E.O. about making provision for my possible future illness. I explained that if I got ill again I would need a 6 months recovery period. This was accepted and we proceed on that basis. We are currently, as an organisation undergoing a lot of changes. Belatedly we are putting in to place Social Inclusion strategies that are proving to be controversial, perceived as antagonistic and proving to be difficult to administer. Rather than being eased into the role, I have propelled myself into the middle of what seems to me to be a miasma of uncertainties. The Chief Executive Officer offered to mentor me for the first three months and he has continued to be supportive. We employ numerous counsellors and I have access to their services should I require them."