For people with mental health conditions, being able to return to work is one of the aspects of their recovery. Find out how Linda did it.
Before 29-year-old Linda knew she had a persistent, mild form of depression called dysthymia, she found it difficult to manage her emotions.
Already battling a low self-esteem, Linda recalls being constantly depressed. She was unable to manage her temper and would lash out at others.
Even taking the public transport would trigger Linda's anxiety because of the overwhelming crowds. Gradually, her performance at work suffered too. “Back in 2013, I had a conflict with a colleague at work,” Linda recalls.
Finding the issue emotionally pressing, Linda began skipping work. Her bosses became unhappy with her inconsistent attendance. Not long after, she was dismissed from the job.
Even then, neither she nor her parents thought of seeking help. Linda’s parents believed she was just being rebellious as she had signs of the condition back in secondary school.
Meanwhile, Linda herself remained in denial. “I did not want to believe there was something wrong with me,” she says.
Fortunately, a church counsellor approached Linda after noticing that the young woman would flare up at the slightest triggers.
She sought help from the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH). There, Linda joined the Sunshinepath Support Group, for persons recovering from mental health conditions to gain social and emotional support. She also underwent the Illness Management and Recovery Programme, to manage her mental health better.
As she worked towards regaining control of her life, Linda knew she needed to learn how to cope with the everyday stresses that come her way, including the demands of the workplace.
She was referred to the MINDSET store, a social enterprise. This Citylink Mall retail outlet is a safe place for clients from various mental healthcare organisations to learn ways to reintegrate themselves into the working world once again.
It overwhelmed her at first, but she persevered. Along the way, she learnt to be more aware of her emotions and how to cope when she feels a flare-up coming.
“Whenever I get angry or can feel the anxiety building up, my strategy is to walk away first,” she explains. Eventually, Linda did well enough to “graduate” after two months. That was when her case manager decided she was ready for the working world.
Many people with mental health conditions need that extra boost in their self-esteem to stay well and remain part of the community. Employment and integration in the community are important ways to build up their confidence.
This is why Linda feels she has made huge progress since she first sought help with SAMH. She is currently working in the healthcare industry and enjoys being able to provide care for others, just as she received help when she needed it.
She says, “My greatest hope is that employers will keep an open mind towards hiring people with mental health conditions.”
This article was first published on NEXTSTEP Magazine, Year 2016, Issue 3. "AIC With You" is the new quarterly magazine on Community Care by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC).
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