The Benefits of working- Simon Collins NZ Herald June 5 2010

I read this article and wanted to share it with you all. So often people who hear voices are medicated and told they may not ever be able to get a job etc etc.. Yet many people find working can be helpful.

Here is an excerpt of the article. You can read the full article at the NZ Herald site here

Katrina Bell still remembers the doctor at Waikato Hospital who effectively turned her away when her life collapsed.

She was 25. She had worked all her life and was about to leave for a new job picking cotton in Queensland.

“I thought everything was fine, everything was going well in my life,” she says.

“Then one evening I went to the toilet with diarrhoea. Later that night my head started going crazy. It quickly turned into 10 different radio stations at once, no, it was more like a thousand. I got the shakes and the sweats. I was just a complete mess.” She went to her family doctor. “He did tests. Because nothing showed up in any of the tests, he said to me, ‘There’s nothing I can do.’

“So I went to Waikato Hospital, but because mental illness doesn’t show up in a blood test, they were no good either. It was a female doctor, she said, ‘Stop being bloody stupid, get home and start eating properly.’ I still feel hurt all these years later.”

Finally her pharmacist referred her to another general practitioner who referred her to a mental health service.

She spent the next four years on sickness and invalid benefits searching for the right combination of medication and personal management techniques to restore her mental health. She went on anti-depressants.

Eventually her psychiatrist referred her to Workwise, a charitable company which helps people with mental health issues to find and keep jobs. She had an interview with them, and the next day they found her a part-time job as a gardener at a rest home.

Her confidence built up gradually to the point where she found her current job in the laundry of a Hamilton motel by herself and no longer needs Workwise.

“I can still go back to them if anything goes wrong,” she says. “I don’t think I’d be back in the workforce if it wasn’t for them.”

And further on, it seems that the government are wanting to cut down on sickness beneficiaries.

the main factor driving the increases, here as elsewhere, was mental illness. Psychological disorders, led by stress and depression, accounted for the entire increase in sickness benefits and a third of the increase in invalids benefits from 1996 to 2002.

Mental Health Commission chairman Dr Peter McGeorge believes stress and depression have increased as we have moved from close-knit villages to transient urban lifestyles isolated from family and friends. “There’s been a breakdown of the extended family, the divorce rate has gone up, there’s much more of a focus on the individual and immediate gratification,” he says.

“It’s destroying that sense of community and connectedness that is normally associated with being able to manage one’s mental health better. People who are married and in stable relationships have less tendency to be depressed and suicidal.”

In the past decade or two the developed world has begun to realise that simply maintaining an income for people caught in the vortex of social breakdown is not enough. Welfare benefits were invented for the aged, the physically sick and the unemployed, but something more is needed for the psychological victims of our fractured urban life.

Governments are discovering that the way to restore their own fiscal “sustainability” is also one of the best ways they can help people like Katrina Bell – helping them back to work.

In what Rebstock hails as “one of those watersheds”, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians issued a position statement last week affirming that “for most people, work is good for their health”.

Dr David Beaumont, who chairs the physicians’ occupational medicine division, says time off work is “like a dangerous drug”, weakening people’s connections with each other.

“People don’t realise the degree of risk,” he says. “If you have been off work for more than 50 days, your chance of ever getting back to work is reduced by 50 per cent.”

Across the developed world, the OECD says, countries are “transforming sickness and disability schemes from passive benefits to active support systems that promote work”.

The new agenda ties in with a new “social model” of disability. People with physical or mental impairments are now seen as disabled by society, and can be enabled to work and participate in the community if society supports them.