Going back to work after mental illness can feel overwhelming.
Some common concerns we hear are:
- What if I can’t cope?
- How much do I tell my employer?
- What if I’m not up to the task?
- How do I summon the confidence for an interview?
Plus, plenty more besides.
It is perfectly natural to feel this way, especially if you are looking for a new job. As the mental health charity, Mind, points out, even though you are feeling better, you aren’t precluded from experiencing a mental health problem again. So it is important to return to work when you are ready in a way that doesn’t feel too stressful or triggering.
We specialise in supporting people into work who are living with or surviving ill mental health so here are our top tips on how to start to overcome these doubts and fears and make that next step towards going back to work after mental illness.
Ease Your Way In
Volunteering can be a great pressure-free way to ease yourself back into the world of work.
If you have been out of the workplace for a while, a change to your routine can feel overwhelming. Even something that once wouldn’t have phased you, such as talking to new people, can be enough to make you doubt yourself now.
Volunteering can help you practice those skills again and remember where your talents lie. The opportunities for volunteering are vast-have a look at https://do-it.org/ for vacancies in your area.
Visualise The Future
Going back to work after mental illness might seem like a simple decision. Apply for the roles you were doing before, right?
Not necessarily, especially if work was a big contributory factor to your mental illness. According to the HSE, in 2019 there were over 600,000 people suffering work-related stress, anxiety, or depression in the UK. Consider carefully if work was a contributory factor and if it was, if you really want to return to the same environment?
Consider what you want your future to look like. You might want to think about:
- Flexible working
- A short commute (or a long one for time to unwind)
- What sort of support you might want at work
- The tasks you are happy to do day-to-day (and the ones you definitely aren’t happy to do)
- Which of your skills you want to use or develop
Assess The Benefits
Whilst you are visualising your future role, think about the benefits of going back to work will bring to your life. It will help you push on with the transition, even if you are feeling nervous.
Increased financial security is the big one. Earning a wage again is often one of the main reasons people decide to return to work after mental illness.
A sense of purpose is another reason. This is especially true for people who had high powered jobs or were very motivated before their illness. Many people get their sense of self and satisfaction from their job. Being out of work has been shown time and again to have a negative impact on the self-esteem and mental wellbeing of individuals.
Going back to work may well be part of your recovery plan and being mindful of the benefits of it can help you overcome some of the anxieties you may be feeling.
Seek Support For Going Back To Work
There are plenty of people who can support you in your decision to return to work.
For starters, your GP can offer you a fit note, which will specify under what circumstances you can work.
If you are going back to the same employer, you should be able to talk to them about your needs and anxieties without fear of discrimination. Long term mental illness is often classed as a protected characteristic, so discriminating against you on these grounds is unlawful.
If you are job hunting, find an agency you can trust. Here at Mindful Partners, we don’t believe in forcing square pegs into round holes. We are candidate-centric and work hard to find the right role for you.
We have experienced mental illness ourselves and returned to the workplace. Whilst we know everyone’s experiences are different, we are living proof that it is possible to return to a fulfilling career.
That is why we have built a recruitment agency that wraps standard job matching services in a thick layer of support.
With us, you get access to mental health professionals, Big White Wall (an online community), tailored interview practice, and a whole year of support once you are in role.
We also work with the employer to help them understand your needs and make reasonable adjustments to enable you to slot right into a happy, long term career with an employer who cares.
Ready To Get Back To Work?
If you are thinking of tentatively taking the first steps toward going back to work after mental illness (or are ready to jump in with both feet) why not give us a call? We have an absolutely pressure-free approach.
You can call us on 08000 478 170, email [email protected] or fill in our contact form.