Posted by: ayrshirehealth | November 27, 2013

The bee in my bonnet by @xLauraCx

Recovery or recovering

I was told quite recently by someone working in mental health services: “our aim for all patients is that they are in employment”. This comment made me realise that we aren’t working towards the same definition of “recovery” or “recovering”, both from the perspective of someone with lived experience of mental ill health and of someone passionate about promoting recovery in their work.  Recovery microscopeWhen a family member was physically unwell earlier in the year, they had an operation and physiotherapy, not because the aim was to get them back into work, but because they were in pain and the aim was to get them well and pain free again. Why should it be any different for someone who becomes mentally unwell?

We know that employment is seen as a beneficial part of recovery, however just because someone is in employment does not mean they are not experiencing severe and long term distress and difficulties.

Bee in my bonnet

You can’t measure distress and illness by whether someone is working. You can of course see that someone is in difficulty if they aren’t able to work, or perform to usual standards in their role, but many people manage work even when experiencing a great deal of distress. It doesn’t do anything for anti-stigma messages if we view recovery as back to work, therefore illness as unable to work.

The bee in my bonnet on this issue comes from the fact I work in a fairly demanding role, but live with mental health problems and don’t see a link between how unwell I am and how able to work I am. My work has always been my escape and a chance to be someone else, think about other people’s problems and push my own away.  This is my own experience and I am aware there are many that are definitely not able to work – I don’t think that means either is more unwell than the other, just that we are all individual and do things in the best way we see possible at the time. balance My parents have at times referred to my work as a form of self harm, because I will neglect myself and my own needs because I find it easier to deal with work than I do all other parts of my life. I can’t manage my own finances, bills, medication, cleaning, cooking, sleeping, feeding myself, sometimes even washing and brushing my teeth, but I can always work – it is an external thing. I can even deal with budgets and large numbers when I am working.

Professional people .. require support

The view I’d like to share is that professional people with mental health problems require support as much as people who are not working.  This support is often not available, doesn’t exist, isn’t suitable or isn’t accessible. 67% of those who completed suicide in 2009/10 were in employment at the time of their death according to The Scottish Suicide Information Database Report 2012 ( and 29% of those suicides were current mental health patients – there isn’t the split to show how many were both. Work.stessWhat it does show is that there is work to be done in terms of those people who are in employment and experiencing mental illness and distress.

I don’t have answers for the problems I’ve mentioned here, but the most important point I’d like to make is: don’t measure mental health and level of distress by the ability to work or study in demanding jobs or courses (or both, in some cases).

We are all individual, and we all do things differently. People don’t fit in neat boxes. Not until they die, anyway.

This week’s blog was by @xLauraCx ; Laura works in student mental health.


  1. I very strongly agree with this. Spot on!

  2. Reblogged this on Beauty From Pain Blog and commented:
    Please have a read of this blog post from Laura.

    I strongly agree with what she says in relation to help available for those who function well at work, despite living with mental health problems.

    I’ll be sharing a little of my own experiences in a blog post this week, but please do read Laura’s blog post. She explains it so well, and this is an area which is clearly lacking.

  3. Reblogged this on MAKE BPD STIGMA-FREE!.

  4. Excellent post! I know this is a big problem for those with obsessive-compulsive disorder because many people with severe OCD get up and go to work every day. So people think, “Well they are functioning, how bad off could they be?” The answer is, of course, very bad off! Thanks for bringing this problem out in the open.

  5. As it happens, I was in fairly demanding and stressful work when I became so unwell I was simply unable to perform any duties at all; I was placed in a mental hospital and when I got “better”, I returned to work. Once. Then I was in hospital again. I returned to work once again. Back to hospital. Third time lucky? No, to hospital yet again. They offered, and I accepted, a disability retirement. I have never attempted to work for pay again; I know how it will end.

    So what does that make me in Ayrshire? (if that’s where the odious comment was made?)

  6. […] The bee in my bonnet  by Laura on the Ayrshire Health Blog  […]

  7. I loved school and work and theatre and running more than myself. My place is a mess. I’m so tired when I get home that I can’t function because I found that work takes the edge off pain, but like any medication, it only works so long and has side effects. Recovery looks different to me at different times in my life. Mental health is not always full time employment. Keep up the good fight.

  8. Thank you so much for writing this, you’ve hit several nails on their heads.

    I work full time & commute 15 hours a week as well as being an on-off carer. On top of this i have several severe and enduring mental health problems but like you i find solace & distraction at work.

  9. work for me equals illness. it is what triggers many of my symptoms. My health is better managed when I am not working. That is recovery in my opinion.

  10. […] The bee in my bonnet  is a very honest blog this week by Laura on the Ayrshire Health Blog  who responds to a comment made by someone working in mental health services that the aim is to get patients into employment. Laura talks about her own experience of working whilst suffering from long term distress and difficulties and says that support needs to be in place for anyone suffering with mental health regardless of whether that person is in work or not. […]

  11. […] The bee in my bonnet by @xLauraCx. […]

  12. […] is “having a job” a treatment or measure of recovery. I wrote about that ages ago here. That could be a whole other blog. But basically, recognise that anxiety and pressure to […]

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