Finding Meaningful Employment Among Mental Health Concerns
Let’s face it: we all want to feel useful. We all want to go to bed at the end of the day feeling that we’ve accomplished something. We all want to have purpose and fulfillment. We all want meaningful employment.
And for many of us, that sense of meaning and achievement comes through their work. But when you are contending with a mental illness, you may find that securing stable employment is a particular challenge.
It doesn’t have to be that way, however. It is possible to prioritize mental health while building a career that you love and finding meaningful employment.
Stigma and Support
Unfortunately, those who have mental health concerns continue to face stigmatization, and that can make the prospect of searching for a new job feel incredibly daunting. If your illness has required you to take time away from work, you may feel apprehensive and uncertain about how to address those gaps in your resume with a potential recruiter.
But the reality is that you can build a long and fulfilling professional career, but it begins by understanding your legal rights and the many resources that are available to you. First, remember that under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you have the legal right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
If you are living with a mental illness, those accommodations are likely to be relatively easy and inexpensive to implement. You could require a flexible work schedule or the opportunity to telecommute to ensure that you can integrate your mental health care and your work life.
The good news is that you don’t have to fight for your rights or confront the stigma alone. A wide array of programs are available to support you both in your job search and in your efforts to protect your mental health while succeeding in the workplace. Supported employment (SE) programs, for instance, are specifically designed to help with placement, accommodations, and on-going employee assistance.
Know Your Needs and Your Value
When you have a mental health concern, caring for your mental well being should be, and often is, the foremost consideration. There is no shame in prioritizing your mental health.
And that begins with understanding what kind of job will best suit your needs. You may find, for example, that working part-time or as a self-employed freelancer is, at least for the short-term, your best strategy. These options can allow you to return to the workforce more gradually and, if you’re freelancing, you can even set your hours, choose your projects, and reserve time for your medical care.
When you have a mental health concern and you’re seeking to return to the workforce or to enter it for the first time, it can be easy to fixate on demonstrating that your condition won’t impact your job performance.
And that can cause you to lose sight of the value you will bring to a prospective employer. So one of the most important things you can do when you’re looking for a job, or you’re striving to excel in the job you already have, is to know, celebrate, and hone your strengths.
Focus on work that allows you to let your unique talents shine through. Take care to ensure that your resume is infused with all those special attributes and skills that only you can contribute.
And then up your game even more by creating a killer cover letter that really highlights who you are and what you have to offer. That involves more than just a generic, one-size-fits-all letter, though. It means customizing your letter to the specific position you’re applying for, pitching yourself, and showing why you’re the perfect fit for the job and the company.
Whether you’re on the job hunt or you’ve already landed a great gig, self-care must remain a priority. That means understanding your conditions and the circumstances that are most likely to trigger an exacerbation of your symptoms.
Regardless of if you’re working part-time, full-time, or freelancing from home, it’s a good idea to create a morning routine that helps you start the day off right. Tailor your morning routine both to what you need and what you want your mornings to be like. The goal is to ensure that your morning prepares you to be productive, calm, and happy, no matter what stresses the day may bring.
It’s also imperative that you incorporate self-care strategies throughout the day, from maintaining your nutrition to getting adequate exercise to practicing mindfulness. This should include practicing good “sleep hygiene,” such as setting an evening cutoff time for all electronic devices and creating a bedtime routine that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
For a lot of us, a job is far more than a way to put food on the table and keep gas in the car. A job, for many, is a sense of purpose, personal satisfaction, and independence. And if you have a mental health concern, you have the right to fulfilling and meaningful employment. The key is to understand your rights, seek support, and create a self-care strategy that enables you to maintain your mental health as you build the career you love.
Guest post by Luke Smith
Tags: behavioral health, employment lake county, end the stigma, health services, lake county mental health, lake county mental health services, mental health, mental health awareness, mental health employment, mental health lake county, mental health treatment, Mentor Ohio, youth mental health