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Michelle's Disability Confidence

Working in social care can be simplified down to one basic thing: a genuine desire to help someone else. So when I was reflecting on what I wanted to do with my life, it was this hope to make a positive impact on someone’s life that led me to embark on a career at Consensus.
 
I’ve been living with Bipolar Affective Disorder for almost thirty years, and I can honestly say it’s impacted both my personal life and my ability to work, so when I started here I was very open with my manager about my mental illness and disabilities – and was very happy to discover there was a supportive, accommodating team of colleagues ready to be there and make sure I have everything I need to succeed.
 
When I first started as a support worker, I was able to work with my manager to organise my shifts around my medication and sleep patterns, adjust my responsibilities to avoid potentially triggering situations and finding different ways of working that allowed me to still be a contributing member of the team whilst remaining safe and healthy in myself. I was always welcomed to discuss any needs I had or challenges I was facing so we could find a solution.
 
As someone living with an invisible mental disorder, I’ve experienced first-hand the barriers that it can create in the workplace, most of which are down to a lack of understanding and awareness about what my condition is and how to actually support someone through this. Often before we’ve even started a job, just mentioning having a mental health disorder can lead to stigma and negative stereotypes affecting peoples opinions of me before they’ve even got to know me, with people basing their understanding of Bipolar based on the depictions they’ve seen in shows and media, rather than actually taking the time to learn about what it is and how to help a colleague who is dealing with it. In reality, Bipolar is a complex and varied disorder that goes much deeper than episodic mania and depression; it can cause debilitating fatigue, focus problems and severe emotional distress – and you can’t tell that someone has it just by looking.
 
Having gone through this countless times, I wasn’t always able to confidently ask for help from an employer, or sometimes felt that I couldn’t even disclose my conditions because I felt that I would be judged and stigmatised from the start.
 
I’m happy to say that since I’ve been working at Consensus, I’ve managed to not only just get by, but thrive in a career and work my way up to being a registered service manager due to the open communication and caring environment. I’ve found empathy, respect, and most importantly, a willingness from others to learn and accommodate. As I grew in my career, I was given resources, training and mentorship to not only learn more skills but learn about how to balance my new responsibilities with my own health needs. And now, I can take everything I’ve learned and create the kind of environment that I was given for my own team to grow and progress.
 
If you’re in the same position as I was, I know it can sometimes feel like there’s no help out there but there’s always something out there for you. I was always able to speak to my own manager about anything that was troubling me, but now we have mental health first aiders and wellbeing coaches there too for anyone who needs help or just to talk, and plenty of resources like access to counselling and assistance.
 
There’s so much wellbeing support that encourages self-care, work-life balance and mindfulness that has been so valuable to help me be able to maintain and grow my career here. It’s still difficult at times, especially with a disability that you can’t see, but I’m confident that my career is going to keep growing along with me.

Disability Confident Employer

We are proud to be members of the disability confidence scheme - a movement of change encouraging employers to think differently about disability and take action to improve how they recruit, retain and develop disabled people. If you want to join our wonderful team, come take a look at our current vacancies.

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