Dave's Progress. Chapter 83: Caught in a Trap?

It has been a long-held bugbear of mine that there seems little provision within mental health services for those who feel themselves well enough to return to some form of work. Particularly for those with diagnoses like mine, which indicate a "severe and enduring" condition, there seems to be a culture of low expectation, which I feel I have experienced, which serves, perhaps, to mire people within the system. Instead of moving on with our lives, then, many seem to languish on incapacity or disability benefits, creating problems of social isolation, low self-esteem, and a general lack of structure and meaning to life. Of course, only those well enough and capable enough should even be expected to find work, but with many people I have seen, who have degrees, masters degrees and even PhDs, the overwhelming impression one gets is of an enormous waste of talent and experience.
So, now I find myself in the position of wanting to "move on". Despite the work I already do voluntarily, I feel I would like to try for more, and perhaps launch out in to the realms of paid work, perhaps just part-time for the time being. So, where does one start?
Well, as always seems to be the case with those who have experienced mental ill health, the process of going about finding and perhaps getting suitable employment seems to be fraught with issues.
For a start, if one is lucky enough to find suitable employment, one still has to make the decision of whether to disclose or to obfuscate one's history of mental ill health. According to some literature I have from the mental health charity Rethink, there are both pros and cons in disclosing one's history or diagnosis of mental illness.
The pros include:
-being automatically given an interview due to many organisations' wish to increase the number of disabled people working for them.
-being covered by the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) and because of this being afforded "reasonable adjustments" to enable you to do the job.
-having control over how you present your experience of mental ill health to your prospective employer.
-by admitting the difficulties you have had and how you have overcome them shows maturity and determination, qualities which may be attractive to employers.
The cons include:
-unfair treatment
-stigma within the workplace
-giving false information on application forms can lead to dismissal. You are legally obliged to tell your employer if, for example, your condition has any health and safety implications.
-you just might not want to declare your condition as you do not think it impacts on your ability to do the job, but then you lay yourself open to the above point.
In my own case, I think I would always declare my mental illness, perhaps in a covering letter, as I have a massive 13 year gap in my employment history, which, without admitting my diagnosis, might, in itself, put off potential employers.
This is all fine, however, if you even get to the stage of being offered a job. Thankfully, in January of this year, the government decided to ban employers from asking job applicants about their medical history prior to interview. In this way, a lot of potential discrimination has been banished, but one still has to get to the stage of being offered an interview, and in the current economic climate, even the most hardened jobseeker may find difficulties.
Further to this, as I am currently only seeking part-time employment, one has to know how this will affect my benefits. Indeed, it may well be that I am one of those people you so often hear about in the media now who are caught in a "benefits trap", where it is simply not worth it in economic terms to go out and find work. Indeed, Rethink recommends that people like myself first get advice from the CAB to find out how I will be affected if I do, in fact, gain employment.
So, is all this really worth it? Am I "caught in a trap"? Or is the structure, meaning and self-fulfillment of working worth it despite the possible pitfalls?
For me, I think, it is worth at least trying. Who knows where things could lead? So to some, I may indeed be caught in a trap. But for me, I think I can see a way out.
That's all for now from your normal, average delusional and paranoid man.


klahanie said…
Dear David,
This is a difficult one that you and I have discussed a bit.
So, of course, you really have to weigh up the pros and cons and reach a decision based on advice from Organisations such as CAB.
You have stated your hopes and aspirations very well in this posting. It shows a very healthy attitude in your desire to potentially obtain paid, meaningful employment. You would like to think that any potential employer would respect your candour and genuine desire to be an integral part of a company. I would like to think that would hold you in good stead.
Wishing you all the very best with your endeavour. No matter what, you have every right to be proud of how well you have done in your ongoing journey towards a better life.
With respect and kindness, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thank you for commenting.
I suppose I can at least give this a try, as as it says in my post, "who knows where this might lead?". Hopefully I can manage it.
Thanful, as ever, for your continued support, Gary. It means a lot.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
bazza said…
Hello David. Once again your articulation and self-expression are second to none. Have you ever thought of turning this blog into a book?
It has to be said that I work with people everyday who cannot find employment. They range from poorly educated ex-offenders to Phds, MAs etc. (I help them to start businesses or at least to find out what is entailed).
This is a really tough time for any job-seeker.
A further point is this: the not-for-profit organisation that I work for employs about 40 people and I'm fairly sure that none are disabled but who checks?
I have never heard of any employer being prosecuted for not fulfilling their 'quota'.
Although I work one-to-one with members of the public, of both sexes, I have never been offered any disability awareness training (although we are CRB checked).
Best regards to you, Bazza.
David said…
Dear bazza,
Thank you for, once again, a full and interesting comment.
Some people at The Media Action Group have remarked that I should turn this blog in to some form of book, and indeed, I believe some of it is going to be converted in to a type of booklet by MAGMH and distributed as anti-stigma material.
As to your other comments, such a lack of provision for disabled people seems a shame. However, I have been in touch with another mental health charity, called "Changes", and the folk over there seem to feel that more and more employers are wanting to get disabled people working for them. So I'll try to continue to look on the bright side, bazza, and when I have more news of my endeavours, I shall be sure to blog about it!
Yours with All the Best,

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