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Old 03-20-2017, 01:32 PM
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Beating mental illness by helping others...

How one woman beat her mental illness by helping others
Mon, 20 Mar 2017 - Australian Jessica May overcame acute anxiety by setting up a recruitment firm for people with mental and physical disabilities.
Quote:
Jessica May was moving quickly up the career ladder until she was tripped up by mental illness. Following the birth of her first child, Jessica developed a problem with her thyroid gland that greatly exacerbated her pre-existing anxiety disorder. "I've had anxiety my whole life," says the 36-year-old from Canberra, Australia. "The [thyroid] condition meant that my anxiety got out of control." This was back in 2012, and Jessica decided to return to her civil service job sooner than originally planned, after she and her doctor agreed that getting back to doing the work she loved would keep her focused and hopefully mitigate her anxiety.


Jessica's own troubles inspired her to set up a business to help others in a similar situation

But Jessica, who had to reveal her mental health problem to her employers to receive the flexible schedule she needed, claims that her managers and colleagues started to make negative assumptions about her capabilities, and began to exclude her from projects. "Because of how I was treated... I didn't really get better," she says. Having previously managed 17 staff, Jessica says she felt disheartened and devalued. However, the bad experience did ultimately have a positive impact - it made Jessica determined to help other people with mental or physical disabilities, and gave her the idea for setting up a business to do this. "I knew there needed to be something for people with disabilities who just need a little bit of flexibility from their employers," she says.


The late Australian comedian Stella Young (centre) was an Enabled Employment ambassador

So she decided to quit her government job and launch Enabled Employment, a recruitment consultancy that helps people with a disability find paid work. Today, the Canberra-based company helps thousands of people find work at more than 400 businesses in Australia, including accountancy giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, taxi hire service Uber, and even the Australian Defence Force. To help get Enabled up and running, Jessica successfully applied for a small entrepreneurship grant from the Australian Capital Territory government. She left her civil service job one Friday in December 2012, and started work at Enabled the following Monday, with help and support coming from a local start-up support initiative called the Griffin Accelerator. The number of people and companies using the business then slowly started to grow.


Enabled helps people with disabilities find employment

The business is similar to a regular recruitment agency, in that it maintains an online listing of available jobs, and acts as a mediator between would-be employees and hiring managers. However, Enabled also offers what it calls "accessibility brokering", which means that it works to ensure that businesses are able to offer employees the working conditions they need to perform at their best. This includes checking on flexible working hours and ensuring that offices have disabled access and toilets. Jessica is keen to stress that the company is not a charity. Instead it is a for-profit business. She believes that charities that pay businesses to take on disabled staff can reinforce negative stereotypes about disabled people. "It really devalues people with disabilities who are totally capable," she says. "We don't want anyone to feel like a charity case."

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