I think it’s fair to say that most people want to have a job.
Employment has consistently been shown to be good for overall mental health, and an important part of recovery. It gives us social contacts, structure, physical and mental stimulation and a sense of achievement, on top of the obvious financial remunerations. Studies have shown that people who are unemployed are more likely to have poorer physical and mental health.
Now I am not in any way, shape or form, suggesting everybody should go to work. If you can’t work for whatever reason, then that’s okay. My issue is that people who struggle with their mental health are being prevented from working full time as a result of accessing mental health services, or unable to access services because they aren’t able to take time off work.
There has been a lot of research into the connection between work and mental health recovery over the years, and it’s been consistently shown that employment is often an integral part the recovery process. But how is one supposed to return fully or remain in employment if they are not able to access support without taking time off? Some people just don’t have the option of taking an afternoon off a week for appointments, or doing more hours one day and less the next. Some people might not get paid if they miss hours and simply can’t afford it.
Outside of being physically unable to take time off, there will be many people who don’t feel able to disclose that they are having difficulties with their mental health for a number of reasons, so don’t even ask for the time off. They may not want their colleagues to notice that they aren’t there and ask questions. They might not want to put excess pressure on people they work with to cover the time they aren’t there. They might be worried about it going against them when the next promotion comes around. These are all genuine and valid concerns. Unfortunately there are still employers who don’t understand or tolerate mental illness; it’s a sad and shocking truth, but it’s a truth nonetheless.
The leading cause of sickness from work in the UK is poor mental health. That is an astounding statistic. So why on earth are most mental health services only open between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday? Whilst it’s true that there are many jobs now that don’t fit into the 9-5 binary, there are still thousands and thousands of people who work standard hours.
There are so, so many barriers to accessing mental health services as it is. Enormous waiting lists, lack of funding, strict diagnostic criteria.
Employment shouldn’t be one of them.