MHAW17 - "Thanks for pushing me and showing me what I can do"

Less than a year ago, 22-year-old Liam from Dover was suffering from severe panic attacks, anxiety and as a result of the two, low confidence.

Liam’s anxiety disorder, which he has had since childhood, often led him to believe the worst was going to happen, which is a common trait in those with anxiety. He was also suffering from body dysmorphia and worried what others thought of his appearance.

He said: “In my day-to-day life, my anxiety would take control and make me sick, I would lose sleep and not eat for a few days at a time. As a person who loves to work, I felt extremely depressed being unemployed, every day dragged and I wasn’t fulfilling my need to work. Every job rejection sent me deeper into depression and started to affect my life”.

Before joining Kennedy Scott’s ESF funded Work Programme in May 2016, Liam started an NVQ Level 1 Media and Admin Apprenticeship, which he unfortunately was unable to complete as his employers felt he couldn’t cope. To begin with, Liam was reserved and struggled to communicate with others in the centre. He was introduced to his Advisor Natalie and she recalls how in the first few weeks, he pulled out of pre-arranged peer-group session, unable to face a social situation. He said: “My social anxiety was the main thing affecting me, from the outside I may look like someone who enjoys to talk to people and have no problem with it, but from the inside I was having a constant war with myself”.

Liam worked with his advisor on a 1-2-1 basis and together they updated his CV and held practise interviews which he found especially useful, he said: “during interviews I would panic which made me stutter and have mild shakes”. They also worked to build his confidence and motivation.

The turning point came when in August of that year when Liam was offered an interview with The Odd Fellows. They are one of the oldest and largest ‘friendly societies’ in the UK. They were hiring for the position of an Assistant Secretary. Unfortunately, Liam wasn’t offered the position, as he needed more office and admin experience. Rather than feeling downtrodden, he came back to the Kennedy Scott centre more defiant than ever to secure work. He began applying for more jobs online and before he knew it was receiving a number of calls from potentially interested employers.

During his jobsearch, centre manager Julie Eastwood noticed Liam assisting other jobseekers around him with job-finding activities. Impressed, Julie offered Liam the opportunity to volunteer with Kennedy Scott to help build his confidence and gain the necessary experience he was missing. Liam was thrilled and accepted the challenge. He excelled during his month placement, which was not only noticed by Kennedy Scott and their other customers but external trainers also.

Just before Christmas 2016, Liam received a devastating blow, his step-dad sadly passed away. Despite this, he continued to volunteer, keen to distract himself and keep busy. Around this time, Liam’s advisor noticed The Oddfellows were again hiring for another Assistant Secretary. Natalie spoke with the employer and highlighted Liam’s recent experience and Natalie secured Liam a weeks' work trial. Liam did very well and he was offered a full-time position to start in June.

On securing the job, Liam says: “As soon as I got the phone call telling me I had been accepted for the job I was extremely happy and I contacted Natalie straight away to tell her the good news. It felt like all the pain, fear and stress had finally paid off and I am now in a job where I am happy”.

Liam’s employer Jan Patchett said: Liam is a very pleasant, friendly, helpful young man and it is very important that members and customers feel comfortable and welcome. Liam’s IT knowledge will help with keeping our social media pages up to date and he is a keen photographer so it will be good to have someone who can take photos for our newsletters”.

Through his sheer determination, Liam has seen a change in his life. Support from his advisor, the Kennedy Scott team and the Work Programme itself has helped Liam to progress into employment. Attending the centre has increased his confidence and helped him to overcome many of his fears caused by anxiety and he is now looking forward to his future.

He said: “The Work Programme has helped me a lot, Kennedy Scott found strengths in me which I didn’t see myself. They also helped turn my weaknesses into strengths which pushed me forward. At the start of my work experience I was scared that I was going to get things wrong as my anxiety makes me fear disappointment, but when I slowly got the hang of it I felt stronger and stronger. Thanks for pushing me and showing me what I can do”.