Graphic of a person standing and four hands handing their resumeIf you're looking for work and have a mental health condition, you may have questions about managing your health and finding a job that's right for you. Follow these tips from Mental Health America to help you on your job search.

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Job Searching with a Mental Health Condition

Jun 28, 2018

By Michele Hellebuyck, Mental Health America

Graphic of a person standing and four hands handing their resumeJune is Employee Wellbeing Month, which is an ideal time to think about how to take care of yourself as you prepare for and transition to the workplace. Earlier this month, we shared tips for maintaining your physical health as you start working. Today, Mental Health America explains how to focus on and manage your mental health as you search for a job.

Employment can have a positive effect on mental health as it offers the opportunity to use your skills and talents, while boosting self-confidence. But you may have questions and concerns about finding employment as you deal with a mental health condition. Searching for a job can be a stressful and emotionally draining process, which can worsen symptoms of mental health conditions.

You may also have concerns about gaps in your employment history or feel unsure about your experience or your need to request reasonable accommodations. Don't give up! You can figure out strategies to work around barriers, often with help from friends and family, mentors and employment specialists. Here are some tips that may help you along the way!

About Ticket to Work

Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Ticket program service providers may be able to help you develop a work plan to help you find success, identify accommodations and supports that you may need, help you report your wages to Social Security and understand the impact of earnings on your benefits. To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 866-968-7842 or 866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

  1. Know your strengths and talents. Seek jobs where you feel you can excel and bring something to the table. Having a job where you can apply your skills and talents can boost your confidence and self-esteem and doing something that is meaningful can offer a sense of stability and satisfaction. You may not find a job in your field of interest but knowing your strengths and talents can help you find a job where you have the capabilities to perform well.
  2. Voluntary questions are just that – voluntary. Applications often include voluntary questions about whether you have a disability (including mental health conditions). You may feel the urge to be honest because it feels uncomfortable to hide the truth, but you may also wonder how stigma about mental illness may affect your application. Whether you choose to disclose anything may change with every application. That is okay, you are not obligated to do so. Most of the application is about what you can, and will, offer as an employee.
  3. Tackle the process one step at time. Applying for jobs can seem overwhelming. The process is time consuming, interviews can be nerve-wracking, and rejections are difficult to experience. For individuals experiencing a mental health condition, this can take an emotional and psychological toll. Try to create a realistic plan to find and transition to work. For example, spend one day looking through job postings and another day applying to the jobs you have selected. Also, do not forget to practice self-care, identify the coping skills that fit your needs, and seek support throughout the whole process. This can be an especially chaotic time. It is important to identify resources that will keep you grounded as you move forward.

Mental health conditions affect different people in various ways. Some people with mental health conditions may never stop working; others find that their condition interrupts their career; and still others may be able to do only limited work. As people recover from a mental health condition, they also face varied challenges in relation to work. Some people with mental health conditions find that they are able, with minor accommodations, to work in the same way they did before. Others may have to re-enter work gradually.

No matter your situation and no matter the hurdles you face, hold on to your goals for yourself and keep striving to incorporate meaningful activity into your life. In the past, people with mental illness were often discouraged from working, but today we understand that work is not only a possibility, but also it can often play a vital role in recovery.

Understanding how work may have an effect on your mental health, planning your job search, and finding support as you look for and transition to work are all important parts of maintaining your emotional wellbeing as a jobseeker and an employee.

About the Writer

Michele Hellebuyck is the Policy and Programs Manager at Mental Health America (MHA). She is responsible for the implementation of MHA programs and technical assistance, as well as the development of publications for MHA's programs and policy activities. She received her M.A. in Global Health and Economic Development. Prior to joining Mental Health America in 2017, she supported the expansion of Community Health Services abroad.

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