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NobodysDamsel

Can you work in mental health if you've suffered mental illness?

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Probably a stupid question.

 

I've never had any direction career-wise. Other people look at their skills and interests to figure out what jobs/careers are right for them, but I've never been able to come up with a single idea. As far as I am concerned, I have no skills... And, strangely, I don't have any real interests. I have racked my brains for years but no job seems right for me at all. The only thing I know is mental illness.... I've had severe social phobia (possibly bordering on agoraphobia) for years, plus depression, generalized anxiety, and a little OCD. Actually I started out with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which I'm fairly sure I still have. My self-esteem is non-existent; minus zero. I'm in a constant battle with myself. I know how all of it feels, because I've been there. So, I was wondering if maybe my career is staring me in the face? Maybe I should help other girls with poor body image and social anxiety? Could I even do that? I mean, I've got a hell of a long way to go. I'm in CBT, and I still struggle leaving my home. Could I ever be well enough to help others? I know there are lots of different ways someone can work in mental health, so I'm not sure what would be "right" for me, if anything. I live in the UK.  :huh:  :frustrated:

 

 

 

 

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I have MI and am in grad school to be a mental health counselor. I briefly mentioned my MI in my admission's essay and no one thought twice. I've also brought it up to my tdoc and she is supportive. Worked for a company that supports people with various disabilities and the house I worked in was primarily a mental illness disability house. One woman had sza, like me, and I did disclose. My supervisor told me that it's no big deal and it often gives us good insight into other people struggling with the same/similar things.

 

I wouldn't worry, just go for it! Unless it's a job that is going to stress you too much, but I guess that goes for any profession.

 

Good luck!

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Not a stupid question at all!  

 

My opinion is yes.    I have a close relative who has diagnoses very similar to yours, and this person works successfully as a mental health counselor.  It is true that you have to be aware of the stress inherent in such a job - but of course, ANY job will have stress....  

 

As you continue to manage your illness, you'll feel more and more possibilities opening up to you!  I think you would have a lot to offer.  

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There are lots of positions for "peer counselors" or "peer support specialists" which can be a really good place to start and see if you like the work.

 

Some cultures have really good models for "wounded healers"... people must pass through a period of their own suffering and come out the other side before they are "qualified" to help others.

 

ETA: 

 

 

My supervisor told me that it's no big deal and it often gives us good insight into other people struggling with the same/similar things.

 

I think this is true to some extent. But it's also really important to consider the purpose of the disclosure and who it's intended to benefit. 

 

I also work in the MH field. I was on that track before I got really ill, but clearly "had issues" before I picked my career.

 

When approaching the work, I've found it's CRITICAL to do an excellent job of self care to keep on top of my symptoms. Over the last couple of years it's been great to really only have to do "routine maintenance" with just a couple of rough spots... I used to have every day, all day rough spots.

 

ETA: You might also check in with Titania. She might have some UK specific ideas.

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Awkward when that happens.

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One of the best counselors I've ever had was a guy who also had bipolar. 

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I think this is true to some extent. But it's also really important to consider the purpose of the disclosure and who it's intended to benefit. 

 

 

I agree, I forgot to mention something about that. I disclosed with the intention to show the client that she can have a healthy, "normal" life, and be successful (which is how my supervisor saw it, she also said there were plenty of staff with various physical and MI issues). Too bad I had to leave that job due to my MI stuff. :/

Edited by forgetmenot220

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I have schizoaffective and I am completing my bachelor of nursing. I intend to become more psychiatric focused. My eventual goal is to work as a counsellor, probably facilitating group therapy. I have a special interest in psychotic disorders as well. 

 

So I think it's definitely possible. 

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I think being in a career for MI whilst having an MI can only help you be better. My pdoc has depression and I think that only helps her understand her patients better. She knows what to say and what not to say and truly understands some of the aspects of my illness.

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Rather than guessing, I suggest that you call the appropriate licensing board and find out the requirements. Usually, they will require you to be stable and in treatment, but you should call to be sure.

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I agree w/ the other posters in that,not only is it possible,i think it would be a plus

actually i think thats whats needed in mental healthcare is more survivors who have been through the expieriance of haveing mental illness and bring that special insight to the table

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Where are you that the pay is high for these jobs? Here we get told that our satisfaction in helping people should be payment enough...

 

Community mental health jobs are the lowest paying jobs in the MH field. Psychiatry is one of the lowest, if not the lowest paid specialty in medicine.

 

Ti is pointing out a lot of the challenges that come along with working in the MH field. And rightfully so.

 

Without adequate support, these challenges can lead to burnout and worsening of one's own symptoms. And being a MH care provider lends its own challenges to seeking help in the community. There were times that I had to get VERY creative to access the supports I needed because all of the supports within a two hour drive were my coworkers or professional colleagues. That was very isolating.

 

And as much as we know that a lot of MH providers see stigma as a problem, that doesn't mean they won't chew you up and spit you out if you cross the line from care giver to care receiver.

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I think mentally ill people are attracted to working in mental health. It's the only career where even the non-crazies are going to at least be able to grasp what "bipolar" or "schizophrenic," and not say things like, "Yeah, sometimes I get sad, too" or "Snap out of it!"

 

My dad's clinic in the 70s had one secretary that was bipolar, one that was mildly GAD, a PRN who was schizophrenic (but I bet she would be under another label these days), and the other pdoc had depression and migraines. That wasn't everyone who worked there, but it was a significant chunk of the staff.

 

But it became hard when people were symptomatic. I remember my dad told me that one secretary told another doctor on the phone to "go fuck yourself." Fortunately, it was a psychiatrist, and she got reprimanded, and everyone went on with their lives.

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It's the only career where even the non-crazies are going to at least be able to grasp what "bipolar" or "schizophrenic," and not say things like, "Yeah, sometimes I get sad, too" or "Snap out of it!"

 

You might be surprised to see how much stigma still exists in the community of providers. I suspect it's a way of "othering" (making someone not like yourself) as a way to try to be self-protective.

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I'm in the UK too and i want to study Postgraduate Social Work, specializing in adult mental health.

 

I think because of what the NHS and government agencies are like you have to demonstrate that you are stable, which might require a letter from pdoc and GP. Then you might be asked out right what your specific MI problems are and how you cope with them, you also might be under further scrutiny in the workplace and on courses.

 

I wouldn't say it's impossible to work in mental health here if you have MI, but i don't think it's easy.

 

Definitely build your confidence and work on your agoraphobia and anxiety, because you will have to be in situations that might trigger it on the course and then at work, and if you can't handle it then they probably won't pass you as fit to practice,sorry to sound harsh but that's how it is, i have family members who work for the NHS.

 

You may also have to demonstrate that your judgement is rational as well. If you have done some

relevant voluntary work and dealt with a complex situation that requires handling with care this could demonstrate it for you.

 

The main thing is you will need to work on your social anxiety, because helping others is a VERY

social job, lots of clients and case loads and clear communication needed. You will have to go to patients/ clients homes, see them at a hospital or contact center, go to meetings where you will have to report your

observations and concerns about patients/ clients to other professionals often in the same day or night, which needs public speaking ability.

 

You will have to liaise with other agencies, and even the police. You will be for a large part responsible for

the safety of patients/clients, my OH's mum was a Social worker and she even had to give evidence in Crown Court because someone had died 2 weeks after she had last seen them. (Their house caught on fire).

 

Perhaps try working in Customer Services, this provides a lot of skills with dealing with people/ diffusing

difficult situations and will give you confidence, and also with a mental health charity at the same time

if you can manage it.

Edited by neptunesky

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