Looking for work has a lot of ups and downs, and when you struggle with mental health issues, the ‘downs’ seem a lot more common. As we know, mental illness affects many Canadians; 50% of adults will have experienced mental illness by age 40, and rates of mental illness are going way up among younger people. The good news is that people have started talking about mental illness more openly with increased acceptance and understanding, which helps improve job prospects for those looking for work. If you suffer from mental health issues, don’t despair! There are great resources and supports available to help you find and keep a job. Let’s have a look at some specific issues and challenges when looking for work while dealing with mental illness:

Things to consider about the workplace 

A lot of people with mental health issues need special accommodations in the workplace such as part-time work, flexible hours, limited exposure to high-stress environments, and so on. One of the biggest dilemmas for people suffering from mental illness is that they never know when they may experience a setback, and if it means they need a day or a month off work, the fear that they may lose their job or inconvenience their employer is very real.

Before you start your job hunt

  • Don’t apply to any old job posting you see; it’s important to consider what work environments are best for your well-being. For example, think about what social or physical environments you work best in (busy, quiet, isolated, sociable, physically demanding, and so on).
  • Find out what types of hours and work schedules you can work around, and don’t apply to jobs that have hours or shifts you know you can’t manage.
  • Ask around, talking to people you know about their work environment and start compiling a list of potential employers you think could be a match for you and your skills.
  • Gather strong, reliable references: former co-workers, volunteer organizations or those within your community.

Resume & cover letter tips

  • If you have a patchy or inconsistent work history, don’t do a chronological resume which lists your past jobs in order of date. Focus instead on your workplace strengths and skills with a functional or skills-based resume.
  • List any courses or training you have completed to show your commitment to learning and skill development.
  • Don’t list any personal or health information in your resume or cover letter.
  • If you’re working with an employment support organization that offers employers a financial incentive to hire/train you, be sure to mention that in your cover letter to give you a leg up in the process.
  • Research companies in your community that you want to work for. Find out if they have inclusive hiring policies, workplace accommodations for staff, and above all, happy employees.

Interview tips

A job interview is your opportunity to make a positive impression and wow your potential employer. While it’s always important to do your research, rehearse your answers, and know how to get to your interview a few days beforehand, for people with anxiety, OCD, ADHD or other disorders, this step is even more important.

On the day of the interview, wake up early, eat well, and make sure you look great! How you groom yourself and what you wear matters at a job interview and in the workplace, so be sure to look like the professional you are.

What do you reveal about your mental illness and when?

This is a tough question, as it depends on the type of job you’re applying to and how supportive your future workplace is. If you feel that you will require alternative work hours or other accommodations that aren’t typical for that job, then it’s important to mention that before you accept the job. If you do divulge your illness, give very little details other than the basics, and wait until after the interview to give yourself the chance to show them what a great fit you are.

Mental health is just like any other illness, but there are still people who don’t quite understand it. While advancements have been made and legal protections are in place, it still can be a challenge to find and keep a job. Whether you or someone you know has mental health issues, consider connecting with one of the employment counsellors at FOCUS Employment Services. We offer professional employment services in a confidential, encouraging environment, and we also deliver support for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Have a look here to learn more about our services, workshops, specialized programs and more, and learn how you can benefit from reaching out for job search help! We look forward to connecting with you and don’t forget we’re only a phone call away; With offices in Angus (705-424-6335), Alliston (705- 435-9821), Beeton (705-435-9821) and Tottenham (705-435-9821), we truly are your local connection for better hiring!