I initially became unwell in 2016 with a manic episode of Bipolar Affective Disorder, and again just before Christmas 2020, during the last lockdown. After my first hospital experience, I moved into treatment with the Early Intervention Psychosis Team, before being discharged to my local Community Mental Health Team.

Before my diagnosis, I felt confused by my moods, and I knew that things were more difficult for me than my peers. I was intermittently going through short bursts of mania followed by long spells of depression. Initially, I accessed treatment via Accident & Emergency and following my discharge from the mental hospital. I was allocated a Care Coordinator (from the Community Mental Health Team) who supported me. 

I worked for the health service as a coordinator, and I undertook an undergraduate degree. I was referred to an Employment Specialist because I needed support and advice to get a job. My illness affected my ability to function and manage my work and daily tasks. I was especially dealing with self-stigmatisation and poor self-confidence.

I wanted to know how to negotiate flexible working arrangements with my future employers to accommodate the right balance for me between work, my life and management of my condition.

My Employment Specialist was amazing, not only did she find jobs for me, but she also supported me with job applications. She helped me to realised that I was experiencing internalised stigma and that I had poor self-confidence in my ability to function at work, because of my mental health struggles. 

I felt supported during our encounters and found it to be invaluable in helping me secure my current role. Once I identified what was wrong, I was able to explore my beliefs and challenge them with real evidence using my past behaviour of success at work. 

With the support of my Employment Specialist, I disclosed my condition to my employer. My Employment Specialist contacted my employer. She was able to tell them (with my consent) that I had been hospitalised with my last episode. This was very helpful and potentially saved my job. 

My Employment Specialist also prepared me by discussing an in-work support plan. I needed to negotiate reasonable adjustments and the salary scale with my employer. We put together a plan of my reasonable adjustments and my Employment Specialist was there when I needed her support around this. She also contacted Smart Works and arranged with them to send me clothing attire, which I really needed for my work.  

I feel that employment is an important part of everyone’s well-being as it gives the mind and body something to consistently do in a routine.

For someone with a mental disorder, employment can give them respite from negative and overwhelming feelings. It allows them to focus on something other than their illness. It can build self-confidence and self-belief.  

Being at work is fantastic! I have opted to work part-time which affords me the right balance between work and personal life. Working positively benefited my mental health. However, I find that if I am not well-rested, work can be difficult. With my current working arrangements, I feel that I have the right balance between working and the other important things in life.  

I found that working has given me more balance in my life. I work with my mental health in mind. I have learnt to work more flexibly to accommodate differing moods and to take the necessary break or rest when required. My self-confidence has increased massively, as well as my ability to function more generally in other aspects of my life.  

I would like to continue learning to better manage my condition, and continue reaching my potential, which includes staying at work. I aim to be working in policy or consular work for the UK civil service. 

Please click here to find out more about the Employment Service at Westminster Community Mental Health Team and the incredible work they do to support people with mental health issues back into work.