Jodie says, “We work with a lot of people who have one or more mental health conditions. From social anxiety to obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD to schizophrenia, we help our customers build foundations so they can do things like apply for a job and stay in work.
“Our support includes connecting people to specialist organisations and making sure they have a strong support network.”
It’s unusual for someone to come to us with a single issue like depression or anxiety.
“There are so many other things to take into account, for example substance abuse, domestic violence and trauma.”
When a customer first comes to us, I take the time to really get to know them. It usually takes two to three sessions, sometimes longer, for them to open up and tell their story. I do a lot of listening and reassure them that everything they say is confidential.
By using open-ended questions and letting the conversation evolve organically, I build their trust. I don’t know people’s backgrounds, so I don’t follow a plan.
“I work with each individual differently. I let my customers set the pace and share when they’re ready to share.”
“One customer told me that our conversations made her feel heard and validated.”
We have some really helpful tools we use, like our Health and Wellbeing Assessment. This allows us to work out someone’s capacity to work based on their health and wellbeing over the previous 30 days.
The questions explore a customer’s health condition and wellbeing and how these are impacting their ability to work. It provides a comprehensive report which includes wraparound supports to build a customer’s capacity. It also provides a report for the customer to help them take important steps forward.
“I think it’s important to let people know there are going to be dark periods. And when they’re in them they need a support structure in place. We can help them build that.”
That support structure may include a family member, psychologist, social worker or us. We have strong relationships with mental health specialists, GPs and headspace, to name just a few. We’ll help them sign up for a Mental Health Plan and even pick up their medication from the pharmacy if it feels like something they can’t do.
“Sometimes it feels like finding people jobs is a very small aspect of what we do.”
I also make sure my customers know that I care about their wellbeing. I ask them to check in with me after they’ve done something that’s challenging or significant. And that helps them to feel like somebody’s there for them.
There’s quite a few people we work with who feel like they’ve been through a washing machine cycle of employment support when they come to us. We need to tread lightly and show we’re different from other service providers, that we actually care.
“I let my customers know if they’re in a dark place they can come into the office and find a quiet room to sit in with the lights down and music on. We’re a safe place for them.”
In February, a lady with severe social anxiety came to me for employment support. Her condition was manifesting in selected mutism. I worked very slowly with her over 6 weeks, encouraging her to leave her bedroom more often, develop new skills and apply for jobs. She’s now in her fourth month of employment in a data entry role for an insurance broker. She’s really enjoying it and her Dad is super happy too.
“I always tell jobseekers thinking about signing up to DES that we’re not only here to help them, we’re also here to educate employers and advocate for them.”
I don’t talk about specific conditions when I’m talking to a recruitment manager about a possible candidate. I focus on their attitude and all the amazing things about them. And I ask the questions that will tell me whether this is the right workplace for them.
“We’ll help jobseekers with mental illness get where they want to be, even if they don’t know where that is yet.”
If you need support finding a job and have a diagnosed mental health condition, you could be eligible for Disability Employment Services.
Our support is free and includes helping you decide on the right job for you, writing a resume, looking for work and putting together applications. We’ll even continue to support you once you’re in your new role. Register today.