North Dublin Befriending Service


News from Befrienders Dublin

Depression as a barrier to employment

June 2nd, 2015

‘The problem is not that the unemployed are ‘allergic to work’. The problem is that there are too few decent jobs are being created, forcing people into long-term unemployment or emigration. The problem is that there is no inclusive recovery – and no amount of Ministerial slurs can mask that fact.’ Jimmy Kelly UNITE union.

Michael Noonan

Finance Minister Michael Noonan recently slandered the unemployed as being ‘allergic to work’. This was also an insult to the many people who find it difficult finding/keeping work due to mental ill-health. A new study carried out by Lancaster University shed light on some of the work difficulties experienced by people with Depression. This is an extract:

 The relationship between symptoms of depression and elements of work

1. Getting to work

Problems sleeping, low mood, lack of motivation, lack of interest in activities may all make the initial task of getting up, getting dressed and then travelling to work extremely difficult. Even more so when combined with anxiety (as is commonly found), which may mean the individual has difficulty leaving the house or getting on public transport.

2. Doing the job

Symptoms can be a barrier to performing work tasks. Concentrating on tasks can be difficult for some people experiencing depression, with concentration and attention span sometimes affected. This may mean people find it difficult to focus on one task for a period of time or may have trouble even getting started. Where this is joined by low motivation and low enthusiasm the challenge is even greater. In addition, where anxiety is co-occurring, panic attacks in the workplace may be a further concern.

3. Working with people

Most jobs involve interaction, whether with colleagues or customers. In some cases symptoms of depression make it difficult to tolerate being with people or tolerate noise. There is a greater tendency to become irritable and often a lower tolerance to stress.


Often people experiencing these symptoms lose confidence in their ability to do their work, causing them to worry about failure and avoid certain tasks (or avoid work altogether). This worry might be so distracting as to affect work performance or self esteem might be affected to the extent that work is affected. This perception of failure can therefore become a self-fulfilling ‘negative cycle’. You would probably think they were doing their job quite well but they feel like they’re not and even if you say ‘no, no, you’re doing it fine’, it’s quite hard for them to accept and believe you.

5.Depression and job-seeking

Such cyclical negative thinking is also difficult for those who are not in work but are seeking work. Low self-worth and self-efficacy are often experienced by people with depression. Often people find themselves unable to imagine that someone would want to employ them – lowering their motivation to seek work even further and perhaps feeling a sense of hopelessness. There’s the sort of worthlessness and hopelessness part of depression and the drain on your own sort of self-esteem and morale.

6.Energy and motivation

Your energy is reduced, you’re tired, don’t feel like it, you think ‘how am I going to work if I can’t even get out of bed in a morning?’ To find a job requires a positive mind-set. This will be a considerable challenge for someone experiencing serious negative cognition. The very nature of the condition can be seen as a barrier for engaging in job seeking. So the whole selection and recruitment process is geared on people who have got a positive world view, a positive outlook who can project themselves well.


This piece by our raving, sorry roving reporter Mickle O’Lunacy was condensed & edited from this report by Karen Steadman and Tyna Taskila.