Many people with mental illnesses lead completely "normal" lives, have families, and have a job. Mental illness does not mean that you can't be successful, that you can't get that dream job, it just means you may have to work a little harder than others. That isn't necessarily a bad thing; I think I appreciate what I have - such as this site - more because I have to work a little harder to achieve it.
Last month I had a bit of a rant following a debate aired in the run up to elections on UTV. The term "mental health" was coined by two out of five politicians at the debate. The context? Getting people with mental health issues into work. Not supporting them, not ensuring that they had access to treatment and services that are fit for purpose - getting them into work. Getting them off benefits and into any old job so that unemployment figures would fall.
As I'm sure you can imagine, I was furious. I am all for people with mental illnesses working, with adequate support from their employers, and provided that is the right job for them. Being in the wrong job can be incredibly detrimental to someone living with mental illness - I know, I've been there, and I know how guilty and upset I was when I quit the job after only two weeks. During that time I also fell into the trap of not disclosing my illness to my employer. I did my level best to hide the fact that I struggle with anxiety. The issue was that my job involved me approaching strangers in shopping centres.
I don't doubt that my employer would have supported me had I been open from the start, or perhaps I wouldn't have got the job because it wasn't what was best for me. The point is, benefits agencies really don't care about helping people find a job that's right for them. They care about getting people off benefits as quickly as possible, and into any job that's available, regardless of how detrimental it may be to their mental health.
So that about sums up my thoughts on mental illness and work. Be sure to share and let me know what your thoughts are!