How to Approach Work and Employment When Dealing with Mental Health Issues

When suffering from a common mental illness, such as anxiety and depression, holding down a job can be exceptionally difficult. However, there are a number of reasons why holding down a job is very beneficial for mental health patients. For one thing, a steady job means a steady income. For sufferers of anxiety and depression, having a reliable and consistent source of income eliminates one of the most common causes of stress: money  worries.

The Benefits of Employment

Having a steady job offers more than just a source of income. For many individuals, it also offers a sense of identity. When dealing with depression or other common mental health conditions, patients can often feel as if they are defined by their illness. This, in turn, can feed into the patient’s negative feelings and perceptions about themselves. When a patient feels that their mental illness defines them, for example, that they are a depressive or a schizophrenic, this can have a significant negative impact on their overall sense of self-worth. As a society, we encourage the view that there is a link between working and earning money, and our value to the rest of  society.

Earning money through employment is one thing, but patients also need to be able to manage the money that they make. Many mental health patients exhibit some degree of impulsive behaviour and this often results in the spending money  needlessly.

When a patient’s self-image improves, for example, because they are holding down a job, they are better able to perform their duties. Ultimately this translates into a better financial situation. For jobs where the salary is tied to performance, the patients will have an objective measure (the money they earn) of how well they are progressing with their mental  illness.

For many people, whether they suffer from a mental illness or not, their job is where they have the most contact with other people. The people that we work with often fill an important role in our social lives. These are usually the people that we spend the most time with, often even more than the people that we live with. Employment can, therefore, serve a very valuable function for individuals who have a limited social circle, or who struggle in social  situations.

Socialising often costs money, whether it be on transport, buying food and drink with friends or the cost of entry to an entertainment venue. Even if your commute to work costs money, it will only be a small fraction of what you earn while working. Therefore, if the patient is able to see going to work as an opportunity for socialising for ‘free’, then this provides them with additional  motivation.

What if Work Makes Mental Health Worse?

The benefits of finding steady employment will, for the vast majority of patients, vastly outweigh any drawbacks. However, every patient is different and so the approach that works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next. It is, therefore, important that, while patients are encouraged to seek out and to maintain employment, this does not come at the expense of their overall well-being. There are some common signs that both patients and their carers should be aware of, which could potentially point towards their current employment making their mental health issues worse, not  better.

The most common sign that the patient might be taking on more than they are comfortable with is a noticeable increase in their general stress levels. When patients are benefitting from their employment, they often find that being at work and carrying out their workplace duties keeps their minds free form intrusive or unhelpful thoughts. It is these thoughts that tend to trigger anxiety and mood issues in patients who suffer from depression and  anxiety.

Financial Support and Benefits

If employment is having a detrimental effect on a patient’s mental health, then they should investigate the kind of support and benefits available. If you are the patient, then be sure to ask your mental health worker ‘what benefits can I claim for depression and anxiety?’. The website is a fantastic online resource for both mental health patients and their carers, and it covers numerous topics relating to mental health and employment, as well as advice on how patients can manage their finances and claim  benefits.

For most patients who are temporarily unable to work because of a mental illness, the benefit they should apply for is employment and support allowance (ESA). After applying for ESA, applicants will undergo an ESA assessment. At the assessment, they will be interviewed and their suitability for employment assessed. In preparation for such an assessment, the patient should speak with their doctor and gather as much supporting evidence as they can  beforehand.

For most mental health patients, employment is a positive experience and will help them to maintain a more positive outlook on life. However, if employment becomes a source of stress then they should look to the various benefits program  available.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.