Dave's Progress. Chapter 15: Back to Work for the Mentally Ill?

So the government has recently announced plans for those on job seeker's allowance and incapacity benefit to be further "encouraged" to get back to work. It seems that those who won't commit to voluntary or community work or training in preparation for going back to work will have their benefits rudely taken away. The notion that people will, in effect, have to work for their benefits seems to be rapidly coming to the fore. The government says that the severely disabled will be excluded from this new wave of what seems to be right-wing thinking from a supposedly centre-left government. At this point everyone will be telling me to wake up- true socialism died a long time ago in this country and perhaps it can now be seen that Blair and his ilk were the true inheritors of Thatcherism.
Personally, I don't mind the idea of working, despite my illness. I have good days and bad days and on the good ones I feel I am capable of doing at least something. I already do some voluntary work for the media action group for mental health, trying to combat the terrible stigmas which surround mental health and ruin many people's existence. I already feel, therefore, that I am contributing to society in some way and my own experience would attest to the fact that work is good for the soul, raises your self-esteem and gives purpose to your life. Indeed, with social isolation and loneliness being a big part of the problem with mental ill health, work can be a good way of fending off what someone called "the tyranny of the comfy chair". I am also told that "willingness" to work is highest amongst those who have experienced mental ill health. So it is not as if we are all scrounging off the state and making a mockery of the system. We are people who have been genuinely unwell and to a large degree, shunned by the society into which we were born, and now only hope that we can make some form of contribution.
The problem seems to be that there is very little support for people like me in getting back to work. It is all very well for the government to suggest that I should find a job, but having been through nearly twenty years of mental ill health, some of those in which I did work, I can't help thinking that plunging myself back into employment would be very difficult. For those more severely affected than myself I can see it being well nigh impossible.
So, if all of this is going to go ahead, what is needed is proper support. I can think of only one organisation which offers such support in Stoke-on-Trent and that is the Richmond Fellowship. Other than that I can think of no organisation in my area which would give me any support in getting back to work. Also, when I talk of support, I would also mean that some consideration for my condition were given by my employer. While some with physical disabilities are given such consideration, it is rare, I think, for any employer to give such consideration to those who have experienced mental ill health, apart from the stock response of them not being interested because of the massive stigma which surrounds illnesses like mine.
Furthermore, when you have experienced mental ill health, it is a well known fact that any extra stress can cause relapse or deterioration of your condition. It is perhaps, then, not the best idea for the government to put extra pressure on those who are already vulnerable. Indeed, some of the most recent research into schizophrenia has been based on a stress/vulnerability model. When people are ready to return to work, then they can perhaps make an attempt at it. But to actively cajole them into such a situation can surely only be bad for their health.
Finally, as we all know we are suffering an economic downturn at the moment. So, where are all these jobs going to come from anyway? The government suggests that there are at the moment around 500,000 vacancies in Britain, but admittedly they are at the low end of the economic scale. So, having done my degree, worked, and then suffered from a severely debilitating illness, am I to be expected to stack shelves at Tescos?
I seriously hope that the government would consider all of these factors before putting the mentally ill back to work. Despite the positives of working, to which I can myself testify, perhaps these back to work proposals should be put on the back-burner, where they belong.
That's all for now from your normal, average delusional and paranoid man.


dcrelief said…
Dear David,
You left only a question for a post; my head cannot decide if I should comment on that or on your absence of actual content. Wait! I think I just did.
In the spirit of fun I sign: dcrelief: "Back to write on my crazy blog?"
David said…
Dear dcrelief,
I think you'll find now that the content has been filled in. Being me and being a bit computer illiterate, I inadvertantly published my post before I had written anything, hence just the question showing. If you return, which I hope you will, there will be more to read.
So I sign off Dave's Progress. Chapter 16: Will I ever know how to use my computer properly?
Yours with Warmest Wishes,
dcrelief said…
Dear David,
Think of it this way: how many blogs do you know of that post a question with no other content and yet... still receive a comment?
Thank you for the information given here, as I'm considering leaving the states within the new year. Most sincerely.
klahanie said…
Hi David,
A subject that has and will continue to cause much debate. I was and would like to be, despite my mental health issues, back out in the workforce in a paid capacity. Yet, perhaps the government should deal with one of the main factors quite a few folks no longer work, that is the issue of workplace bullying. Companies should take responsilbity for the welfare of their workers. Something that is grotesquely overlooked in Britain. Better working conditions, better mental health..quite simple really. Anyway that's my contribution rant.
If you are interested, 'Changes' has a series of workshops called 'Changes Moving Forward'.
So they might be considered another option along with Richmond Fellowship.
Warm wishes to you David. Klahanie aka Gary.

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