Depression And, “Hello. How Are You?”


“Hello. How are you?”

Could you ask a more innocent, well-intentioned question? It’s almost automatic; typical of how we greet each other. Oddly enough, those who ask don’t always want to actually know how you’re doing, and those who answer don’t answer truthfully much of the time. Yet, again and again, for lack of a better, well-thought out form of greeting its used time and time again.

It’s true you know. Just pay attention and listen when you’re greeted by someone for one or two days as an experiment. Today being Monday, most of your co-workers will today say, “Hi, so how was your weekend?” Tomorrow and for the rest of the week, they’ll say, “Hi, how are you?”

A couple of days ago I sat down with someone suffering – and suffering is the right word by the way – with depression and poor mental health. He’s been out of work for over a year now, and his life-long depression is getting much worse. He told me that one of the things that bothers him more and more is the constant question of how he’s doing; especially from people he knows don’t want to really know.

Are you guilty of this? I know I am and I imagine you are too. I’m not naïve enough to actually believe that 95% of the people around me are fine or good; even though they say so. Sure many of us are good and doing well. However, it must be painful as this fellow says, to be living with depression and constantly asked how you are. He then told me how much his life was being affected. His favourite time of day is when he goes to bed – at 11:00p.m. usually. After lying awake for 2 hours, he sleeps until 11:00a.m., gets up and eats, then sits in front of the television almost the entire day, not going out unless he has to.

Now he’s cut back on family gatherings because so many of those extended family members are going to naturally ask him, “How are you?” and while he could tell them the truth, he knows they really don’t want to know, nor could they help him if they wanted to. Well, aside from stopping the asking of how he’s doing in the first place! So it’s a cycle of feeling ashamed of doing nothing day after day, seeing Life go by without improvement.

This depression has affected his memory too. He’s positive that he can’t be trusted to remember things he’s told, and so for now, work is out of the question. Not to mention the depression has left him little patience in some situations he might meet with the public. All this passive living is affecting his physical as well as mental health too. A lack of exercise has led to weight gain, lower self-esteem, poor stamina.

Yet, to meet with him you’d see a happy fellow, quick to laugh, friendly and knowledgeable about topics of the day. Kind of an Eleanor Rigby type, “wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Ah look at all the lonely people!”

Now how many people I wonder will you – and I – come into contact today who are similarly suffering from depression? Let’s make that Depression with a capital, “D”. When living with this mental illness, it can affect energy, focus, judgement, motivation, self-perception and it’s not just a quick visit to the doctor to get a quick fix. We’re talking long-term implications.

Sometimes there are medications to help change the chemical make-up of the brain and attempts to stimulate connections through electro-therapy. I’m certainly no expert in treatments although I’ve friends and co-workers as well as many clients and people who use my support and advice in the course of my job. While it’s helpful to listen without judgement, providing reassurance that talking about one’s mental health is okay with me and not a topic I find uncomfortable, it’s frustrating knowing that waiting lists for treatment are long, treatments aren’t always effective, and other than listening, what can I do?

While it’s not necessary to experience what another person is experiencing to be empathetic, sometimes I feel being an empathic listener just falls short really. I suppose though this one’s not about me – or you for that matter. This one is about the person with Depression. If listening with empathy helps them feel understood and helped, maybe that’s something.

Think how difficult it must be on a daily basis for someone living with Depression; post-traumatic or ongoing, anxiety, psychotic or personality disorders, etc. It must be and is for many, debilitating. So maybe when we see some person who appears to be lazy or worse yet able to do fun things but not work, maybe extending some compassion and erring on the side of considering they may have a mental health issue would be preferable to believing them to be sponging off others generosity or tax dollars when their perfectly capable of contributing.

I suppose we might choose to hold our tongue and check our thoughts; for truly, we have no idea to what degree someone might be suffering with and already feeling ashamed of themselves for not being more productive.

So today, instead of, “Hi. How are you doing?” maybe we might say, “Hi. What are you up to today?” or if you do ask how someone is doing, look them in the eye and pause long enough to hear and care what they answer.

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Did You Realize 2017 Is 50% Done?


For some of us, time crawls by at a snail’s pace while for others it goes so fast people will say, “Where did the time go?”

For all of us however, no matter where you live on this globe, 2017 is pretty much 50% over already; it now being mid-July. Okay technically July 10 is not the mid-point of the calendar year, but it is close enough to dead middle that a small bit of reflection on how things are progressing is a good idea.

If you’re the type who makes resolutions with the flip of the calendar on January 1st each year, I suppose it’s only logical to ask yourself how you’re faring. Yes, you might be right on track with your goals, monitoring them daily or weekly, and if you’re doing so and succeeding then congratulations are in order! On the other hand, if you’d made a few resolutions; private or public, and you’ve let them drop by the wayside, you’re likely not enjoying thinking about the change you envisioned and planned with good intentions to undertake didn’t actually materialize. Was the goal too lofty? The intentions good but no real plan put in place?

There are of course the typical resolutions one makes; lose weight, eat healthier, save more money, get out and meet people, find a good job, return to school etc. Each of these are commendable to be sure and for those who set these goals and reach them a pat on the back isn’t out-of-order. However, it can be discouraging to realize that those goals are still not being reached and you’re floundering. That you set those goals in the first place was good of course; presumably you set the goal(s) because you wanted whatever it or they were.

So setting the goal wasn’t a bad idea. I suppose then that rather than beating yourself up over having, “failed again”, the thing to really do is come to a realization. If the goal is important enough, it’s never a bad time to start anew. In other words, don’t throw out the goal in July because you’ve not made any progress in the first half of the year.

Some of the things you may have wanted to do are still obtainable. Take the person who vowed they would start their Christmas shopping earlier in 2017 so they weren’t scrambling in mid-December. If that someone is you, this is your gentle reminder to be on the lookout for Christmas gifts now. It will be easier on your finances perhaps to start now, spreading out purchases, and you can perhaps get deals now on things harder to think of later. Perhaps visiting a pottery studio you pass on a driving trip to pick up a unique handcrafted item?

If your goals included finding a decent job in 2017, how is that coming along? While March is typically the number one hiring time of the year, August/September is right up there at number two and is fast approaching. So yes maybe you can still prepare for this second wave by getting yourself ready now. Dust off that old resume and update it. Go through your closet and drawers and give what you’ll never wear again to charity so you know where your work clothing is sparse and needs replacing.

Take advantage of the good weather to get yourself out in the community in which you live and interact with people. Set up a face-to-face with some people you’ve connected to, line up your references, sign up for that first aid training because your certification has expired. Look up some interview questions and answers for your chosen profession on the internet. Get a hold of a job posting or job description if you can for a position you’d be interested in and see how your skills, experience and education align with the employers’ needs.

With the year half over, the good news is the year has 50% left before we don the New Years Eve hats and blow on the noisemakers again. That’s good news because half a year is plenty time to make some progress if you’ve got yourself stuck in neutral. In other words, taking stock of what you didn’t get done on December 31st is a poor practice because there’s not time to do anything at that point. Here in July however, well, you can take a few steps forward.

If by the way you’re employed already, was there something you thought would be a good idea back in 2016 that had to do with your current job? Be a better team player? Take less sick days? Work with a little more organization and have a tidier desk? Maybe it was staying on top of your emails? Goals need not be lofty and in fact, sometimes a series of small goals which you reach can help build momentum for the really big challenges.

Maybe pulling out your performance evaluation will remind you of what you set out as your goals at work for 2017. If you’re accountable for hitting your targets, don’t ignore what you’ll eventually have to face.

Here’s a last thought as well on goals you may have set for yourself. If the goals are too extreme or no longer relevant, modify or drop them altogether. Setting a goal or two that’s relevant to you will have more meaning and increase the chances for success.

 

No Applications? No Interviews. No Job. Simple.


The best way to get a 100% guarantee that employers will continue to reject and decline to offer you interviews is to stop applying for jobs altogether. Do this and you’ll be done with frustration, stress and the cycle of applying with hope only to taste the acrid bitterness of rejection; then to reapply again with optimism etc. Yes, give it up now and escape from voluntarily setting yourself up for ongoing disappointment.

Of course if you follow that opening advice, you’ll have a lot of time on your hands. Time that initially will seem like a wave of relief washing over you. After all, no more scouring the internet and job boards for minimum wage, entry-level jobs. No more fruitless networking meetings, resumes to tailor to specific jobs, no more need for LinkedIn; the freedom to post online whoever you are, whatever you want without a thought or care about who sees what. No more emails to send, nor the need to be checking your phone for possible invitations that never come. What a relief indeed!

The downside of course is that all this free time doesn’t exactly stop your brain from wandering back to thoughts of employment. Without a job or even looking for one, you’ve got about 7 hours a day, 35 hours a week, 140 hours a month etc. that you wouldn’t have if you were working. How many of those hours are you going to fill productively doing other things? Reading, traveling, exercising, watching television, fixing things around the home; all good in their own way, but for how long are these things going to keep bringing you the happiness they do now?

The most obvious stress for many is where does the money materialize from to allow you to keep living where you do now? There’s the rent or mortgage, food, utilities, repairs, transit, clothing, your morning jolt of caffeine. What about entertainment, unexpected expenses, illnesses, new glasses, dental visits, prescriptions, the virus protection on the laptop that needs renewing? Just a small list… So you start getting frugal if you haven’t already; thinking strategically about what you can do without; what you’re willing to sacrifice. That gets stressful after awhile doesn’t it? I mean, saying you’ll do without item B because you won’t give up item A only to find that in two month’s time your ‘must have’ item A is something you have to part with to keep item C. This is living?

Sometimes all these decisions just seem overwhelming right? Sure they do. This is when some people turn to self-medication which never really seems to have much of a lasting affect. Oh for a while they shift your thinking and provide short-term relief. In the long-run however the medications wear off and you’re back dealing with the original thoughts and you’ve added the lower self-worth and need for self-medication to your list of things to be disappointed with in yourself.

The thing about stressing while in a job search is that you’ve got one thing to hold on to that makes the frustration of a job search worth the effort; there’s the hope of success. Get into the interview stage when you’ve had a rough time even having your applications acknowledged and you’re making progress. Have a good interview or two and you feel the momentum building. Build on the momentum and you find your making the short-list; getting down to the last cuts. Get the job and all that frustration leading up to this moment suddenly becomes worthwhile. You appreciate the job more when you get it, you experience a moment of gratitude and appreciation for what it took to get you there.

All those expressions about putting in the hard work to get what you want, keeping your eyes focused on the destination or anything worth having is worth working for etc. suddenly have real meaning. You earned this one.

Gone are the days when many people got the first job they applied to or jobs just dropped into their laps without really even looking. Gone are the times when your good looks, natural charm, sexy clothing or mom could get you the job just for the asking. Well for most of us; there are still some regressive employers who still hire sexy, but think about it; do you really want to work for a person who hired you based on that? What are you setting yourself up for in the future? Get hired based on merit, job-specific and transferable skills, experience and you’re better off.

Don’t give up, give in, lose hope, listen to pessimism and grind your job search to a halt. Stick with your quest for employment and apply for jobs. Do your best to keep that positive outlook but allow yourself to be human and acknowledge the disappointment and frustration that a prolonged job search can bring. You can simultaneously be disappointed with progress but optimistic that you’ll eventually succeed.

Athletes have trainers, coaches and rely heavily on those who have previously achieved success to mentor them. Why not follow the same formula when you’re after something you ultimately want too? Seeking support while job searching, having a professional coach instruct you in how to be most effective and then having the discipline and intelligence to actually follow the advice you’re given with a commitment to your own improvement is exactly what successful people do.

Of course there’s always the alternative…

 

Low Self-Esteem? Lack Of Self-Confidence?


Are you the kind of person who others at first glance would assume has it all together when in fact you’re struggling with self-esteem and confidence issues? Do people look at you and say, “I wish I could be more like you”, and your response is to silently form the reply, “If you only knew; no you wouldn’t”?

I think many would be surprised to learn just how common this is. When I say that I run into people on a daily basis who are coping the best they can with issues of personal worth, self-esteem and self-efficacy, I’m not exaggerating. On the outside they appear to just be ordinary folks, blending in and going about their business, but they do so with higher degrees of personal stress, anxiety, and doubt.

These people face a number of personal challenges. First and foremost because they appear ‘normal’; (and the word itself is up for debate and defining) they don’t attract concern or empathy for what they feel. While they do their best to mask any visual clues that might reveal a lack of confidence and self-esteem, which helps them in some ways, they simultaneously make it harder for those around them to acknowledge their experience and provide support. The result is that people around them may hold them to higher expectations than they are capable of performing at, and when they falter, the cause of their failure may be incorrectly attributed to a lack of ability rather than a lack of self-confidence to perform a task.

Placed in the right environment with supportive people around them, such people can and do not only function well, they thrive. The issue then becomes finding such workplaces that have the right combination of supportive co-workers and management; where the culture is one of building up each other and people are truly valued as the most important resource the organization has.

It’s also easy to understand why people would try their best to go about concealing their lack of self-worth and low self-esteem. They certainly don’t want pity, nor do they want to be viewed as broken or fragile; even if from another’s point of view fragile they are. The last thing they want to is to be labelled as weak and vulnerable. So disclosing and sharing their self-doubt with respect to their abilities could cost them jobs at interviews, or opportunities for advancement when working and looking to make an internal move within an organization.

I find that low self-esteem is often deeply rooted in people who have been belittled and put down over long periods of time by others in positions of trust and authority; people who held meaningful places in their lives. It could be parents who said their children weren’t smart enough, strong enough, good enough for years. Then it could also be an abusive partner that preyed on them with the message, “You’re nothing without me” or, “You’ll never amount to anything”. Hear these kind of messages enough and you can understand why a person might just come to believe them.

It is of critical importance therefore that we all then become good caretakers of those around us. We do this when we extend thanks for work performed, acknowledge the good work of others around us or just check in with how someone is doing. It can be a genuine compliment on some action a person is taking, a word of appreciation for help received; small things perhaps but each one building on another. The cumulative impact of these small gestures can and does have a remarkable effect on long-term change for the better.

But to you…

You’ve got this nagging self-doubt about what you’re capable of and the fear of living up to what others expect from you. You fear failure; even the appearance of failure. You wonder about the implications of that and how that might alter what others think of you and what you don’t need is further proof that you aren’t up to what needs doing. You might be thinking it’s best not to try at all because you’re likely to fail and then what? More evidence that ‘they’ were right all along…

May I tell you that you need not live up to others expectations. Yes employers do have expectations of their employees, and just like everyone else, you want to do your best to meet those expectations. Start with work that has a high likelihood of success. As you master the basics and string together small victories and successes, you’re personal confidence will improve. If you look around with an objective eye, you’ll see every around you has their ups and downs, success and challenges. Some of us actually have the most spectacular fails but look and see how they still have the respect of those around them and still go on breathing and working; as will you.

We all have our own self-doubts; times when we call in professionals, excuse ourselves from participating because we are out of our areas of expertise. Likewise we all stretch ourselves just a little at times to take on new challenges to find out what we are capable of and grow.

Rebuilding your own self-worth, self-esteem and coming to realize your contributions are valued as are you as a person make take time. It is strength to share your feelings with someone you trust, and that can make all the difference.

“Why Volunteer? I Need A Job!”


Some people are out pursuing careers while others are out looking for jobs. Why would volunteering; essentially doing the work without getting paid for it, be in anyone’s best interests who is currently out of work? After all, it won’t help pay the bills.

Giving others the benefit of your time through volunteering, (working without financial payment for your services) is – as those who volunteer will tell you – tremendously rewarding. You do benefit from giving of yourself, just not in the traditional sense of receiving financial compensation. However, if you scoff at the idea of working for nothing, you’ll be foolish to turn a blind eye to volunteering as it will strengthen your future employment applications. There are good solid reasons why employers like seeing volunteer positions on a resume and make no mistake; the best of employers see value in people who give of themselves in helping others.

So let’s look at volunteering in a rather odd way; a selfish way. What’s in it for you? This is a legitimate question; a good question! After all, when you’re out of work and need a job to pay the bills it does sound counter productive to just give away your time for nothing and as a result have even less time to hunt down work that pays.

Well for starters, volunteering keeps you connected to people. Whether you’re volunteering your time in a warehouse packaging food hampers or helping to build a home in your community for a family in need, you’re going to interact with people. If you have good people skills already, you’ll continue to develop and nurture those skills. If you aren’t really comfortable dealing with others in the first place, you’ll be in a position to start working on your interpersonal skills and ward off feelings of anxiety that come from a lack of interaction with others. It doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly go on to a career as a charismatic public speaker, but as most jobs do require some degree of social interaction; ie. the interview process for example, volunteering brings you into contact with others in a non-threatening way.

Guess what? You’re going to feel better about yourself too. Yep, you can get pretty down on yourself and Life in general when you’re out of work and keep getting rejected by employers. All those questions like, “What’s wrong with me?”, “Why can’t I get a job?” can lead to feelings of low self-worth leading to anxiety and ultimately depression.

When you volunteer, you’re wanted! People look forward to seeing you, they appreciate your skills and efforts. You start feeling connected to a cause, connected to others, welcomed and with this your self-esteem gets a boost. You’ll also find you’re picking up some skills from others, staying up-to-date with best practices and no matter what you are actually doing, you’re developing some good work habits that employers value. It’s true! You’ve got a schedule you’re expected to meet, responsibilities that you’re counted on to fulfill, and of course it’s hoped you’ll be punctual and accountable for your time. Make no mistake, it is volunteering but its’ volunteer work.

Another benefit is the good references you may be building up; references you could leverage and use to your own advantage when applying to paying jobs. References from the place you volunteer can speak to your cooperative attitude, your dependability, your work ethic and your willingness to learn. If one of your problems is out-of-date references or none whatsoever, this is a very good way to establish some current ones. Pass by on volunteering your time and how else are you going to get some references? Please don’t get friends to lie for you and pretend to be past employers – using friends for your own gain says much about your character if you do.

It’s not so unusual to find that paid employment arises out of volunteer experiences. Some organizations make a habit of hiring their volunteers when the opportunities arise. In this sense your volunteer placement is really one very long on-the-job interview. It could be that while the organization you volunteer with doesn’t have openings to hire itself, but those you volunteer alongside recognize your positives and pass your name on to their own employers where they work and tell you about openings you should apply to. Hey it does happen; more than you think!

Now lest you think that you’ll have no time to look for a paying job, I’m not advocating that you drop your job search and spend 35 hours a week donating your time. No, you can balance your time between job searching and volunteering – say one morning a week or twice at most. Volunteer organizations understand the need for money and most would pay you if they could. So letting them know you are really looking for paid employment but would like to donate something of yourself while you have some time is something they’ll understand.

Finally, if you haven’t worked in a long time – maybe never – the whole job search thing can be intimidating and downright scary. Volunteer your time and you’ll build some self-confidence and just feel good about yourself. This could be a key part in your long-term plan to gain employment for which you’re just not ready at the moment.

Volunteering makes a lot of sense. Giving of yourself can also be self-serving in a very good way!

The Worst 4 Letter Word In Your Vocabulary


Over the last couple of weeks I’ve noted a number of people I’ve been having conversations with have unwittingly put themselves down and in more than a few instances unintentionally put down many other people with the use of single word.

Yes whether in the community theatre group I’m with at the moment or at work, the word is possibly one of the worst four letter works you can use. The odd thing about this particular 4 letter word is that you can use it in any social situation and you won’t raise a ruckus with anyone for slang, swearing, vulgarity or causing embarrassment. Yet, as I say, by using the word in the wrong context, you can insult yourself and others and let your opinion slip out unintended but there for all to see.

Okay so enough of the cryptic beginning; what’s the word? The word my dear readers is, ‘just’. “Just? That’s it? What’s the big deal?”

Here are a few actual comments I’ve heard uttered recently.

“I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”

“I’m just looking for a general labour job.”

“I’m just looking for a job until I find out what I really want to do.”

“I’m just living in Oshawa until January.”

“I’m not really qualified to do anything so I’m just looking for a job in retail.”

Ouch! Each one of these statements is real and in each case the person gave no indication whatsoever that they insulted both themselves and others; offending in order: moms, those in general labour jobs, all those living in Oshawa and all those working in retail.

Please do yourself a favour and stop using the word ‘just’ in a similar context to the examples above. IF you’re only interested in my point to this blog feel free to stop reading here. If on the other hand you want to read on you’ll gain more insight into how this betrays your lack of self-esteem, self-image and can hurt your employment opportunities.

Okay all you moms out there, yes you. Are you a proud mom? Are you good at running the household, budgeting meals, housing and recreation costs on what you bring in? Are you the kind of mother that puts her kids as a first priority, raises them as best you can with the skills, education and good sense you have? In short, are you a good mom? Then why would you say, “I’m just a mom.” This short sentence composed of four words the longest of which is only 4 letters is a put-down to all moms everywhere and expresses the view that you yourself see motherhood as something of little value. More to the point it says you view the people who are mothers around the globe as in some lowly occupation of little social standing. I doubt that is your intent.

As for the retail example above, when you say, “I’m not really qualified to do anything so I’ll just get a job in retail”, you’re betraying to anyone listening that you have a low opinion of those in this profession. It’s like your saying, “Working in retail doesn’t really require any specific skills; anyone could do it”. Your personal opinion may and probably will offend a large number of people who would gladly educate you on the required skills to work successfully in retail. Oh and by the way, the employers who hire people to work in retail positions are doing their very best to make sure that they avoid hiring people who are not going to invest themselves in the work and see it as some kind of ‘pay for doing precious little’ job.

Now I grant that in our various societies around the globe there are certain professions that have more prestige than others. In some cultures its Doctors, Bankers, Architects and Professors. In some countries you might find it’s the patriarchs; the mothers who are esteemed and held in high regard. General Labourers might not be on your personal list of valued professions, but without them consider how the life you lead would be impacted. Once again, there are many highly skilled and valued people toiling quite successfully who are general labour positions.

Look I know you probably don’t mean to put anybody down let alone yourself. Watch your language and listen to yourself for subtle words like, ‘just’ that creep into your everyday vocabulary.

Here’s an interesting thing to drive home this point. When we meet someone for the first time or the first few times, we instinctively start to gather all kinds of information on them in order to figure out who they are and how to interact with them. Our eyes take in their body language and appearance, our noses pick up on body odour or fragrances. Our ears pick up on tone of voice, language skills and words. Our brains process all this information and do it amazingly quickly. All of this information comes together and we have what we generally call an impression of someone. As we gather more information, our first impression is strengthened or adjusted.

Phrases that start, “I’m just a…” suggest to our brains many things; possibly that the speaker has low self-esteem and views themselves as being of less value. This gives an advantage to the listener in dominating the speaker and possibly in ways which can be harmful and controlling.

Something to think about. Just saying.

Respect And Applying For Welfare


If you’ve never had to apply for social assistance you probably can’t fully appreciate how demeaning it can be to many who have no other option.

In Ontario Canada, the first part of the process once you reach the decision to actually apply starts with a phone call. Now phone calls aren’t so bad for most people actually; you’re speaking with someone who can’t see you after all. During this call you give a lot of personal information over the phone and at its conclusion, you‘re given a date and time for the in-person interview.

The shame and embarrassment if it’s going to be felt at all, starts for many the moment they push open those doors and enter the reception area at a local Ontario Works office. Notice the name, “Ontario Works” is proactive and sounds more appealing than the word, “Welfare”. That’s not an accident, but despite the name, many recipients themselves refer to it by the term welfare. It is what it is by any other name I suppose.

When your time waiting is done and your name is called, you and the person conducting the interview move from reception area to interview room. I have to tell you that most Intake Verification workers are real pros; they understand what sitting there being asked normally intrusive questions is like, but ask they must. To every question asked, an answer has to be forthcoming, and while most questions are matter-of-fact, when you’re on the receiving end, many of these questions probe areas one normally doesn’t share – especially with someone they don’t know. There’s no passing on an answer, and if the answer you give is a poor one, you may be subsequently asked again for a clearer or deeper answer.

With questions probing into your financial commitments and debts, bank account numbers and balances, personal identification numbers, details on absent partners in the case of applying with children and all your assets, you can find you’re handing over more than just the facts and numbers. You may feel that with your birth certificate and health card, you’re also handing over your pride, self-esteem and self-worth. It’s not a dignified process; especially if the only personal information you’ve ever handed to anyone is your doctor or a credit card to a cashier.

One of the most difficult things you can hang on to at this point is your respect. Now my feelings are that if and when you get to the point you are applying for social assistance, you should do your best to view this process as a sign of wisdom. That may sound odd. My belief is that you have finally reached a point where accepting some financial support is smarter than not doing so and ending up homeless, in a shelter or on the streets. There you may out of necessity find yourself having to do things you’ve never contemplated just to survive – so let’s not go there.

You know, in addition to applying for and receiving money (which comes from the community tax base), one of the biggest benefits is the help that’s available to move forward with respect to training and skill development. In fact, those that are on Ontario Works for perhaps the first time often are amazed at the range of help that is available that they didn’t previously know about.

Where I work, there’s workshops on acquiring life skills (nutrition, setting goals, dealing with anger), computer basics, resume and interview preparation, how to deal with stress and frustration, building self-esteem and confidence, finding career direction, workplace health and safety training and more.

Of course there are essentially two kinds of people on assistance; those that want to take advantage of the free supports and those who don’t. Whether it’s the chip some carry on their shoulder or the belief they don’t need the help, many don’t take advantage of the help to regain their financial independence. Those that do have the attitude that while unemployed, why not take advantage of all the support they can get – especially as it’s free – in order to compete successfully and get an edge over other job seekers.

Lest you think everyone should be forced to participate in such workshops, I can tell you by experience that forcing someone with a negative attitude to take a course or workshop with the threat of suspending their benefits only makes it harder on the Facilitator of those workshops and the participants who really do want to be there. Those with the poor attitudes could potentially drive off those who could benefit the most from retraining and learning, so that’s not an answer.

Respect is the one thing you can hang onto when you’re on assistance. Respect for the help offered to you, respect for those who have to resort to social assistance that you may have in the past thought were lazy or gouging the system, and of course, try your best not to lose respect for yourself.

It is in trying situations that some people become bitter, resentful and give in to being what they most fear. Others in the same situation choose to respect their decision to get help, to work hard to regain their financial independence and appreciate those who give the help they do.

Self-respect; hang on to it no matter what your circumstances, and ease up on judging those in great need.