I read the article on the jobless graduate suffering from mental illness and I would like to share my experience.
I am in my thirties, single, hold an honours degree and a master’s degree in another discipline, which I completed on a part-time basis while working. I did well academically, emerging as top student for different subjects and in junior college, as top Arts student.
I have been working for more than ten years but have been on long leave since June last year due to schizophrenia.
I lost my job in March this year and was informed to find a different job. Up till then, the department I was working in was still willing to have me back at work.
I believe the contents of the doctor’s medical report on my condition, of which I am unaware, changed their minds on retaining me with the department.
I was told that the department I was with was too hectic and I might suffer a relapse. In addition, the doctor had indicated that I was not suitable to return to work for a period of one year which is indeed too long a period to be away from work.
Thus far, my job search has not proven successful in yielding any interviews. I have not sent out hundreds of applications as I do not meet the requirements for most jobs available in the market.
So far, I have been searching for jobs in the recruitment pages of Straits Times and online job portals.
Suggestions given to me include looking at other areas of work. His other suggestion was to sign up with recruitment agencies and be placed on temporary assignments so that I can pick up useful skills along the way. But the job functional areas that recruitment agencies source for are in areas such as human resource, administration, sales, marketing, logistics and IT.
With more than 10 years of experience in a specialised area of work, I fear I lack the experience to be considered even for temporary assignments. And what will I tell the recruitment agency when they ask me why I had quit a well paying job to take up temporary assignments?
I want to avoid mentioning the fact that I have lost my job because of my illness. But I can’t survive on temporary assignments, if I receive any. My supervisor advised me to be creative, versatile and proactive – easy to say but difficult to implement.
Furthermore, stigma exists with regard to mental illess. The job application forms I have submitted so far ask the job applicant to declare whether they have suffered or are suffering from a mental impairment which reduces my chances of being called up for an interview.
I have not been terminated from the agency in which I work yet. But the doctor’s medical report was only written in March this year and in it,he had stated that he would do a review on my condition the following year. March next year is a long time to wait.
During my last visit to the doctor, I tried to get him to allow me to return to work sooner but he was reluctant to do so. Even if the doctor clears me to return to work, I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find any employment within as this is dependent on available vacancies and in competition with other candidates.
What chance do I have when faced with healthy individuals? Moreover, no one would want to employ someone who had to be away for medical reasons for over a year.
I am also not certain as to whether they are prepared to take me in at my present level of employment.
My savings will not last me long. My medication alone comes up to around $600 plus per month.
Knowing how important appearance is, my chances of landing a job is even more neglible as I would lose out during the interview at first sight, if I am ever called up for one. I probably have to wear a wig to hide my actual hair condition.
My future is bleak, if I have one. I have considered taking on non-graduate positions such as production operator, retail assistant and even cleaner, to survive. I wonder what to tell the employer as to why I lost my job. Any mention about my illness would end any offer of employment even if they are willing to consider graduates in the first place.
All of what has happened is demoralising and depressing. I worry about how I am going to support the family when my father, who is the sole breadwinner now, retires or should any ill befall my father now as he is already in his sixties, if I remain unemployed or end up working in a low paying job.
My thoughts have flitted to suicide – what it would be like to jump off from the eighth floor of my apartment. I should not bear such thoughts but I cannot picture the light at the end of the tunnel. The more I dwell on my situation, the more hopeless it all seems.
The wrong choices I have made in my life have led me down this deep abyss from which there is no way out.
Editor’s Note: We will be seeing Sally soon for a discussion.