'Working was all I knew, it was my life, and I felt like it had ended'

According to the Mental Health Foundation around a quater of the population will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, with mixed anxiety and depression being the most common mental disorder in Britain. So it is no surprise that the NHS claim almost 50% of long-term absences from work are due to mental health issues. Is self-employment a better option for those that suffer from poor mental health? Louise, 32, shares her story.

Louise had been unemployed for over six years and was referred to Kennedy Scott’s Hemel centre in January 2014. When Louise was enrolled on the Work Programme she was deflated, discouraged and depressed-just over a year later she is in the final stages of setting up her own business.

“I’m like a different person since January,” she begins.

"I didn't even go into the town centre for over three years due to depression.

“My life was in limbo, I had no control. I felt there was no meaning to life not working, people look down on you.”

Louise had previously worked two jobs whilst in school, including working in a solicitor’s office for three years and was predicted A’s and A* at GCSE, and she went on to achieve outstanding grades. Despite her potential Louise had been suffering from depression since she was a child and had a break-down in her early 20s which rendered her unable to work.

She said: “Working was all I knew, it was my life, and I felt like it had ended.”

When Louise first started claiming benefits it was a new experience and something she was unfamiliar with: “I come from a working family, I didn’t even know benefits existed before.”

Louise also struggles with her physical health, relying on ESA, which is another reason she is keen to be her own boss.

Louise’s business ‘L.J’S Personal Designs’ centres on personalising items, such as; cups, photo frames and phone cases. To prepare for her business Louise has been ordering machinery to personalise different materials with and she has been watching YouTube videos so she can learn how to use them.

She said: “Kennedy Scott staff talk to you and work around you, they are friendly and its great for people like me who want to work.”

Through Kennedy Scott Louise has received IT qualifications, she said: “It’s boosted my confidence a lot coming here (Kennedy Scott) I have taken three IT skills courses which will be vital to starting my own business.

“If it wasn’t for coming to Kennedy Scott I wouldn’t have learnt all the IT skills I have.”

She continued: “It’s been so beneficial being able to go over my ideas with my Employment Consultant Vicky, she gives me good feedback.

“Without Kennedy Scott I wouldn’t be where I am now, I wouldn’t be confident and prepared for my business.”

And what advice does Louise have for those in a similar position wanting to start up their own business? “If you’ve got an idea go for it, there is help out there for people on benefits wanting to do what I do.”