By Aimee Wilson, Chair
This fortnight, for Time To Change’s Storycamp, the theme is ‘the other side to mental health’ and it’s all about sharing your experiences of an aspect of mental health that isn’t always talked about or which you feel is often misunderstood. So, we at LEAPS, decided to shed light on the impact that unemployment can have on your mental health and our tips on how to cope when your mental health has deteriorated or when someone you care about is struggling.
There’s a lot in life that can impact your mental health, yet the majority of the things talked about tends to be trauma or abuse. Of course, these are incredibly important issues and as someone who has experienced abuse, I’m incredibly grateful that it’s a subject which has a lot of light shed on it. However, focusing on one or two particular catalysts for mental health deterioration can sometimes leave someone who has been impacted by lesser talked about experiences, feeling alone and dismissed. It’s so important that we share experiences despite any pressure or influence not to, because doing so can encourage others to do the same and in speaking up, a person is more likely to receive help and support.
Unemployment is something that a lot of people are still very much ashamed of – whether it’s about themselves or a relative or society in general. I think that it’s an issue which is surrounded by such negative connotations and assumptions (largely due to so many media stories about people putting in false claims for state benefits whilst unemployed). The common misconception that everyone who is unemployed is just too lazy to work, is hugely debilitating for those who are unemployed due to disability or redundancy. It almost makes you ashamed to tell someone you’re unemployed out of fear that you’ll be judged for it.
The media stories around state benefits for those who are unemployed have meant that the criteria you must meet to qualify for benefits is often described as being like jumping through hoops. The system seems to be this way so that professionals can weed out anyone who is making a false claim and who is trying to manipulate the system. This means though, that the genuine people who are often unwell (physically and/or mentally) become extremely stressed and anxious around claiming benefits.
The fear of judgement and the negative image around unemployment are two of many reasons why being unemployed can impact your mental health – which is one reason why joining a support group like LEAPS which specialises in supporting people who are unemployed (no matter why they are) can be so beneficial. Having that common ground with all the group members can really promote a sense of comradery and teamwork that is usually very much needed where someone has become isolated through their unemployment. LEAPS are also particularly special in that we offer therapeutic trips every so often (usually funded by the National Lottery Community Fund) and we find that our members really enjoy the opportunity to get away from their everyday life where they sometimes feel discriminated against, stressed, and judged.
I hope that this piece has provided insight to those who were maybe unsure as to why unemployment would impact someone’s mental health, and that for those who are experienced in this, they feel less alone.