After 20 years living with depression, Alex knows a thing or two about mental illness.
With Mental Health Week this week, he is calling for employers to open their minds to employing people with a mental health condition.
“If you’re not 100% fit and willing to work full-time, then many employers don’t want to know you,” he said.
“In reality, many people with mental illness have a lot to offer. For a long time I knew I had something to contribute to the workforce, but I also knew my body just couldn’t handle full-time work.”
McNair Ingenuity Research in 2014 found that 57% of surveyed employers would not hire someone with a mental illness due to perceptions around unpredictable behaviours, the risk of breakdown or productivity losses due to increased sick days.
In contrast to the perception, the study found that 63% of businesses who had employed someone with mental illness reported having a ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’ experience.
Employing someone with mental illness who is supported by Rocky Bay also comes with the added benefits of having completed employment readiness activities, being carefully matched to employers and being recipients of ongoing support.
Alex is working at Men of the Trees after receiving support from Rocky Bay’s Employment Services team. The program supports hundreds of people with a disability, 41% of who live with a mental health illness.
“I had been volunteering at Men of the Trees for about 12 months when (Rocky Bay consultant) Scotty encouraged me to apply,” Alex said.
“Scotty helped me develop the confidence and self-esteem to be able to apply for the job. I also think volunteering for a while before I applied helped me with the transition.”
Although one in five Australians experience mental illness in any given year, Alex said the stigma around mental illness was rife and understanding of what it meant to live with mental illness was low.
“People can’t see my condition and don’t understand what it means to have depression,” he said.
“Depression is not the same as when you have a few bad days – it’s physically not being able to do what you need to do for months on end. At its worst it’s a crushing defeat from an unseen enemy. Even getting out of bed is a fight.”
Alex has a number of strategies to help mitigate the effects of his condition, including ‘going bush’ to photograph wildflowers and trying to focus on his mantra of ‘just keep going’.
“If you start believing that the future will be a repetition of a bad day, you will feel worse,” he said.
“You always have to remember that you have good days too. If you can just get through a bad day today, tomorrow might be one of those better days.”
If you would like to give someone the chance to escape the black dog and live a more fulfilling life, please call 9349 6617 (north of the river), 6399 4171 (south of the river) or see how Rocky Bay can support your business to business through our no-cost recruitment service. It will make their year and could be great for business too.