Mental Health And Your Job Search


When looking for a job, it’s  important to give it all you’ve got. Complicating your job search however are all the things you’re worried and stressed about in addition to being out of work. It would be wonderful if all you had to concentrate on was getting a job, given all the things you’re dealing with. And that’s exactly the problem of course; you’re not dealing with all those things very well and you’re problems are growing.

If you wrote down on a piece of paper all the things you are currently burdened by, it might be quite the list. Of course there’s the lack of a job for starters. Without a job, there’s the money problem and the dwindling bank account. The shrinking bank account is a cause for concern, as is the rent that’s due monthly. Your grocery shopping is being affected; unable to purchase healthier items which are costlier. Without fresh fruits or meats and eating less than three meals a day, your physical health is impacted too.

The unemployment means more idle time which is messing with your weight; either putting on pounds through eating more as a way to cope with stress or eating far less and dropping too many pounds because you can’t eat. Without stable income, your social calendar is vastly restricted too. You’re called less by friends to do things because money is tight, so movie nights are rarer, shopping trips go on without you. The calls you used to get from friends are replaced by debt collectors, and even keeping your phone active is becoming increasingly difficult.

New issues start to surface; you find yourself so desperate to escape the constant stress you’re under, you’re substituting what little healthy foods you can buy for alcohol, which you’re drinking more often as I requires more to get that buzz and escape your problems. Another new annoyance is the tooth that’s aching either from a cavity or being chipped but you can’t afford the trip to the dentist. The cheaper but less healthy food that’s taken over your regular diet is affecting your dental work too.

Added to the above, your behaviour has family worried more about you than you find comfortable. So as a way to cope with all their never-ending questions you stop seeing them, stop answering their calls, and that just increases your guilt so you convince yourself you’re better off without them. Without friends and family or the co-workers you used to speak with, suddenly you realize you’re isolated and cut-off from society. You go out less, shut the curtains to block out the happiness you see outside your window; not wanting to see people scurrying around who all seem to have somewhere to go, something to do. More and more you find yourself just sleeping, retreating into the darkness and warmth of your bed. Anxiety and depression are creeping in.

With all this going on, looking for a job not only becomes harder, it becomes less and less of a priority. The focus moves from employment to just getting through the morning; just the afternoon and ultimately just through the day. As the money dries up, as the necessity of finding cheaper accommodation elsewhere rises and the thought of being kicked on to the street and homeless starts in your head, it may be that you resort to things you never imagined yourself doing – applying for social assistance, using food banks and accepting charity. Funny thing about charity is you were once the person donating money, and you always thought to yourself, “It’s so sad, why don’t they just get a job?”

So now we see how unemployment is layered and complicated. Getting a job would be wonderful of course, but there are a lot of other issues to deal with first. People who say finding a job is a full-time job mean well, but with all these things on your mind, how possible is that? And of course you’ve got additional factors complicating things.

You might have a criminal record (stealing items you couldn’t afford due to the above), a messed up family where you’re labeled the black sheep (why can’t you get a job like your big sister?), being a victim of abuse (taken advantage of by someone you trusted who controlled and used you or uses you still).

So where to begin to deal with all your problems? If I may make a suggestion, you might find talking to someone who will listen with an empathetic ear helpful. A Mental Health professional can help by hearing you out and sorting things out with some confidential advice and suggestions. Seeing how things are related, determining where to make a start, where you can find help and acknowledge your progress can really help you feel better about yourself.

If all the above is unknown to you personally, count yourself fortunate. People such as I’ve described here are all around us; all around you. They don’t wear labels identifying their issues but they are the people you meet who are doing the best they can to blend in and hide all their problems with fleeting smiles they put on to fit in. When you innocently ask, “How’s it going?” they say things are okay but really want to scream, “If you only knew! Help!”

If you know someone like this, or see yourself, reach out and take advantage of help in your community.

Speaking With The Emotionally Fragile


This week and next, I’m meeting 1:1 with 21 people who just last week I spent 5 days with exploring career possibilities and learning about themselves. The purpose of our individual meetings is to give them feedback on their participation in the process, sum up what they got out of the experience and what steps lie before them in both the short and long-term.

Among the things they all share in common is that each of these people are currently in receipt of social assistance; getting help with their rent and food while they rebuild their lives. Of those in attendance, what you may find interesting is that quite a few disclosed in the group or to me individually over the week that they are dealing with issues of depression and anxiety either on a frequent or regular basis. So you can imagine how proud I am of all of them for coming out, doing some self-assessments of their skills, abilities, values and needs with respect to jobs and careers.

I met with one such person yesterday for about 90 minutes. I asked about her living arrangements in order to find out how stable this part of her life is, as stable housing is a pre-requisite to finding employment. She mentioned that she lives with her younger brother, but previously lived with an older brother, her mother before that, her father before that, and with both her mom and dad prior to a messy divorce. Having revealed all this to me, I asked her how she felt moving around during that period. And it was at this point that I was glad I had thought to put a box of tissue within reach of her.

All her feelings of being inconvenient, in the way, unappreciated, passed off as a burden and a source of frustration for others flooded out. That one inquiry I’d made touched a sensitive and raw area that on the surface of things was invisible, but internally she was carrying it so close to the surface that the slightest mention of her feelings caused her to pour out.

At a moment such as this you’ve got to know how prepared you are yourself to have someone break down in front of you in such an obvious trusting and honest way. The key for me personally is that it’s not about me, but about them; and at that moment, it was pretty clear she was in need of a slight pause in the conversation – even though we’d pretty much just begun – to compose herself. She apologized. I get that of course, but why apologize?

At 25 here she was before me an emotionally sensitive woman still experiencing the trauma from the messy divorce of her parents and being shuffled around from family member to family member because she was not wanted by any of them until she landed with a younger brother. She’s been robbed of the security and stability of an intact parental pairing, and has yet to fully work through this loss.

Counselling of course came immediately to mind as a viable addition to her support team in moving forward. Unfortunately, she mentioned that she is distrustful of counsellors because it was a counsellor arranged by her father that first told her that her parents were about to get a divorce and that it would be very messy. That unfortunate experience has jaded her from giving counselling a second chance. I’m still hopeful that this option for her becomes one she takes me up on, especially when it’s free for her entirely and just down the hall from where we were meeting, so it’s in a place she currently trusts and visits.

We meet people every day in our lives who are experiencing trauma, dealing with anxiety and depression. Some of these issues become known to us and at other times they are invisible, but we deal with the people nonetheless perhaps never knowing what they are really dealing with and working through.

What makes encounters with those experiencing mental health issues unique from physical health issues is that they are not immediately apparent, and therefore the rest of us might not come to the same conclusions with respect to the behaviours we observe when dealing with them. So while a person wearing a cast gets a, “Gee how did that happen? Let me get the door for you”, the depressed person might get a, “What’s your issue? Smile a little, it wont’ kill you.” And if those with mental health issues did wear identifying labels on their foreheads we might be paralyzed ourselves in wondering how to even start talking to them when we saw 5 or 6 labels on one person alone.

For me personally, I have found that just sitting and listening, opening the door to a disclosure, making no promises of a quick fix, but engaging in a safe relationship where it’s okay to share something personally important works.

People with anxiety and depression can be valuable additions to an employer. They deserve success, happiness and employment just like anyone else, and in many cases will work with appreciation for the opportunity. Initially they may need extra support, a kind Supervisor as they stretch themselves and what they can do. Just imagine how grateful and committed an employee you’d be getting if they could share their triggers with you and not be taken advantage of or dismissed for doing so.

Something to consider.