Returning to Work After a Mental Health Break

Returning to work after taking a break for your mental health, comes with a whole range of emotions. Whether you have a six month or 10 year gap on your resume, it is something you might be intimidated by. The feelings you are experiencing are completely valid and normal. Stepping back into employment is a huge step, and we encourage you to applaud yourself for being here.

An important element of returning to work after a break is to prepare yourself. There are small changes you can implement to make the transition process easier for yourself. Try setting an alarm in the morning, preparing a meal for the next day, or getting dressed in the morning. All of these things will help you meet your basic needs, and allow focus on your new position when the time comes. Another important piece of preparing yourself includes establishing your support network. Make a list of those who can support you, and help you cope in this transition period. Having a community to reach out to is important in any lifestyle change. Lastly, identify your barriers. Being aware of potential challenges you might face will help you to be ahead of the problem. Share these challenges with your support system too so you can talk through possible solutions.

Let’s talk logistics. One of the first few steps you might be thinking of when it comes to returning to work is updating your resume. Writing a resume can be a daunting process, especially if you are a mature worker with many years of experience to summarize. Typically, people gravitate towards a chronological resume template. However, if you have timeline gaps or are looking to enter a new field with no direct experience, a functional resume might be a better fit for you. Focusing on your transferrable skills, and related experience will help you feel confident in your application and interview process. WorkBC offers a range of services to support this process, including personal employment planning. Reach out to our centre to schedule an appointment with an employment advisor who can help you with your employment journey.

The question many ask is, should you bring up the topic of mental illness? Do you disclose this in an interview with an employer, or wait until you get the position? Do you share in your new workplace with colleagues? The real answer is to do whatever you feel comfortable and safe with! It is entirely up to you to choose whether you disclose that information or not. Of course, there might be certain situations where disclosing your mental illness will enhance your employment experience. For example, it would be beneficial to disclose your mental illness if you need workplace modifications or customized employment support to be successful in the role. Being transparent with your potential employer about possible modifications will hopefully end in a positive interaction, and provide you with meaningful and sustainable employment. However, if you feel as though the outcome could be negative and unsafe, it might be best to reflect on whether that company can meet your needs as an employee and if they’re a good fit for you.

Having meaningful and sustainable employment is a crucial part of most people’s lives and contributes to their well being. No matter which path life has taken you down, there is always time for a new opportunity. If you would like to learn more about Mental Health and Employment, we recommend checking out the Canadian Mental Health Association’s resource ‘Steps to Employment’ which can be found in an online PDF.