MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK: PART 4 OF 7: THE UNEMPLOYMENT FACTOR

unemploymentWelcome to the fourth part of our seven-part series paying tribute to Mental Health Awareness Week, where we shall be shedding light on some of the various issues associated with mental health, breaking down the taboos and hopefully, convincing people that no, not everyone with mental health issues is a rampaging lunatic.

There are various catalysts to poor mental health. Sometimes we’re pushed into a dark place by difficult circumstances beyond our control. Sometimes, it’s developed as a byproduct of a diagnosed condition. Or sometimes, it just pops up out of the blue.

Talent Match Leicestershire has worked with many people who have struggled with varying forms of poor mental health and we shall be tackling the biggest linking all of these cases…

…unemployment.

We all want a job… except perhaps those of us saving up for the next lottery ticket(!) The job gives a routine that we can get comfortable with and that day-to-day stability, providing the structure through which we navigate life.

So what do we do in the absence of structure?

Almost all of the young people Talent Match Leicestershire have worked with had been in a perpetual state of unemployment – sometimes lasting 2 years – unable to get that start in life for various reasons; lacking the experience of qualifications required, family commitments, long-term illnesses, previous convictions etc.

Imagine struggling to find work, a job that matches your skills in an industry you’re passionate about, only to find out you don’t have the same level of expertise they’re asking for. With all the rejections, it would probably come as a shock if you didn’t end up developing an inferiority complex.

Some recruiters often have a very particular idea about the type of person they’d like to recruit, and if you don’t fit those oh-so-specific standards… back to the drawing board.

Every time you don’t manage to land that job is always another blow to your self-confidence, and you feel stuck in a rut. It’s even worse than being stuck at crossroads. At least at crossroads, you’ve got some choice as to where you go from here onwards. You’re left stuck in a perpetual state of employment limbo.

I remember my own year of unemployment, trying to find work, feeling that even the slightest sign of imperfection would close those doors to me. I remember once applying for a retail job, going for the interview and then waiting by the phone for five hours for a phone call that never came (you’d have thought a five-minute call to explain why you didn’t get the job wouldn’t be too much to ask. But after a while, you end up telling yourself the answer they won’t give you:

You’re not good enough.

And overtime, you could end up asking yourself, “If no one else is prepared to give me the chance, why should I even bother?”

You find yourself losing any motivation for meaningful pursuits, indulging in internet-surfing, Netflix-binging, you may find yourself mentally spent by midday, and then bemoaning the fact that you’ve got another 12 hours to work through before the day is out. Even favourite hobbies fail to bring any pleasure into your life.

Overtime, you find yourself trapped in a meaningless cycle, unable and maybe even unwilling to break from it. You don’t dare attempt another job search because you feel like you’re just setting yourself up for yet another rejection. Some people may think of you as lazy, but you just can’t bring yourself to take that risk. Who would be willing to fall if they didn’t think they had a safety net to catch them?

That can be a low point for a lot of people, feeling like you have nothing valuable to offer. And any achievements you made beforehand – qualifications or experience – have done very little to help us progress forward in life, and we find ourselves wondering if the experiences we’ve had have bought us to this, of what use were those experiences? Were they all for nothing? Does the only goal within reach consist of eking out a living on Jobseekers Allowance or ESA or Universal Credit?

In the most extreme circumstances, you feel as if there is no meaning to your life, that there’s no point in carrying on. Because your whole life is passing you by with nothing to show for it. And life is a bit like public transport. It doesn’t wait for you to be ready.

So many dark, probing thoughts, chipping away at your self-confidence… all rooted from a lack of support in finding meaningful employment.

I have felt like this, and I’m sure there are many others out there who have been down that road. Talent Match Leicestershire picked me up and gave me a direction to my life, convincing me that I still had something to offer. They have done this with countless people… more than my short-term memory can remember. Because young people are struggling to gain that start in life.

The most recent edition of the Prince’s Trust annual Youth Index revealed that out of the 2,215 young people aged 16 to 25, 18% of them don’t believe they can change their circumstances if they want to and 16% feel that their lives will amount to nothing despite their best efforts.

Regardless of age or background, we all need someone, an employer, an organization, possibly even some kind of job genie to give us that structure and meaning to our lives. Everyone is different, but you can only binge through Breaking Bad and watch so many cat videos on YouTube before you go mad with boredom.

But it feels wonderful to have that job. That daily structure and sense of accomplishment that comes with it, knowing that you are making a positive step in the right direction.

Unemployed people are just as likely to be vulnerable to poor mental health as the rest of us, if not more so. There is an increasing necessity to work more closely with the unemployed and ensure that they find that direction in life, something positive that they can work towards.

There’s no immediate answer. Finding solutions for people could take years, maybe even decades. A lot of people may have lost that fiery drive in them, but with the right support, we can reignite it.

There is a lot of untapped potential there. We just need to work to unlock it.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out the rest of our Mental Awareness Week series.

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: The Need for Early Intervention

Part 3: The Physical Side of Mental Health

Part 5: The Hidden Condition Overlap

Part 6: Moving Away From Stigmas

Part 7: Working Towards Positive Mental Health

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