Michelle’s professional accomplishments were impressive. But redundancy and mental health and addiction issues had knocked her confidence.

Michelle had spent most of her career working in corporate roles.

She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 12 years ago and had struggled with addiction issues for several years.

After being made redundant, she had been working in casual roles for five years. She was struggling to find another permanent full-time role.

She worked in a supermarket for some time. However, the on-call and casual nature of the job was hard and unrewarding.

Her next role as a community support worker lasted three years. But the erratic hours and working conditions were taking a toll on her wellbeing. After talking to her psychiatrist, Michelle decided to leave this role to search for a role with more stability and routine hours.

Anxiety about the future

Unfortunately, Michelle’s search for a permanent full-time role was not going well and her already stretched financial situation was worsening. This left her depressed and despondent.

“I felt hopeless,” said Michelle.

She needed help to return to work in a role which would be a good fit with her skills and past work experience.

COVID-19 struck, and New Zealand was stuck in Alert Level 4 lockdown. No one was hiring, and people were losing their jobs all over the country.

Michelle was anxious about her future.

Connecting with Workwise

Michelle checked out the Workwise website and used the online form to register for employment support.

Kevin*, a Workwise employment consultant called. They talked about what had been going on for Michelle and made a follow-up Zoom meeting to go through things more thoroughly.

“I thought I’d never find another job. My financial situation was getting desperate, and I was miserable,” said Michelle.

Kevin advised Michelle to contact her local budget advisory service.

“This was a huge help, to at least make a start to get my finances under control,” said Michelle.

They also discussed getting a doctor’s referral so that Michelle could get support from the local DHB’s alcohol and drug service.

Journey to recovery

Michelle began seeing an addiction counsellor almost immediately and started her addiction recovery journey.

After some feedback from an unsuccessful job application, Michelle discovered that her referees were not as supportive as she had expected. Michelle could not approach these people herself, so Kevin made a few calls to work out what was going on.

“This was a turning point for me. My employment consultant outlined the support that Workwise would give me once I was in a new role. My referees assured him that they would provide supportive references, if I had the support of Workwise,” said Michelle.

Kevin worked with Michelle using strength-based practice. Reflecting on successes and inner resources provided a lens for Michelle to view herself again as someone with considerable ability.

Once New Zealand returned to Alert Level 2, Michelle interviewed for a role she had applied for before Alert Level 4. Her confidence had increased, and she now had solid referees.

Michelle was delighted to receive a job offer.

A new start

Michelle has started working as a retail assistant.

“I love my job and the supportive culture of the organisation I work for,” said Michelle.

She wishes to keep on building on her confidence to a point where she can envisage planning to return to her previous professional career.

“Helping Michelle to connect with clinical resources to overcome addictions, and budget advice to help her manage finances has helped her to reduce stress and increase her clarity of thought,” said Kevin.

“Michelle may need some support in her employment in future, however, her considerable reclaimed confidence and pride are likely significant protective factors in her moving forward and reclaiming her impressive self.”

Looking forward

“I now know that if I have any issues in my new role, my employment consultant will be just a call away. He will work with me and my new employer to make sure that we get things resolved,” said Michelle.

“I am now sober, managing my debt and feeling supported in a way I have been searching for a long time.”

*Names changed to protect privacy.