Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Mary Ita Heffernan from Health Service Executive to give some advice for people considering this job:

Mary Ita Heffernan

Social Worker

Health Service Executive

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Mary Ita Heffernan

Whilst in secondary school, I changed my mind many a time regarding the career path I wanted to pursue! I always knew that I wanted to work with people but was unsure about the profession which would most suit my interests and skills in this regard.

While in school, I definitely found that being unsure about the type or area of work you want to pursue is a very difficult and confusing position to be in, especially given the array of career choices now available and the pressure one feels in trying to make one’s mind up.

To this end, I would strongly advise anybody in this position to research courses and job descriptions well in order to make the most informed decision possible at that time in your life. 

I recommend one tries to gain as much work experience as possible as it will provide you with valuable insight into your skills, ability, likes/dislikes for certain areas of employment!!!!

Also I would research the courses and job areas as much as possible so that you can make an informed decision regarding your choices. If you can't gain enough information in school, contact the college directly or arrange to talk to somebody who facilitates the course. In particular, it would be really valuable to talk to somebody in the profession to gain a realistic and practical insight into the job.

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The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with clever technology. They will often follow the latest developments in their chosen field, and prefer mentally stimulating environments.
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Bipolar Disorder
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Bipolar Disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is classified as a Mental Health Condition. It is a neurobiological disorder resulting in severe changes in mood.  If you have bipolar disorder, you will have periods or "episodes" of depression - where you feel very low and lethargic,  and mania - where you feel very high and overactive (less severe mania is known as hypomania). The symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on which mood you are experiencing. Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks or longer, and some people may not experience a "normal" mood very often.

Bipolar disorder is relatively common. Around one person in 100 is diagnosed with the condition. Men and women from all backgrounds are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder.

Symptoms can begin in childhood, but more usually appear in adolescence or adulthood. Young people with the condition can have extremely high moods (mania) and low-moods (depression), often with swings between the two. Sometimes they may feel both extremes at the same time. Bipolar disorder is a condition requiring treatment with prescription medications.

As with most disorders, not all of the characteristics are experienced by those with the condition:

  • Diverse shifts in energy, moods and functioning abilities e.g High energy levels and needing litte sleep
  • Talking rapidly without allowing for interruption; move from one activity to the next very quickly
  • Be easily distracted;
  • Believe themselves to be indestructible and take risks
  • Moving to low energy levels needing constant sleep
  • Feeling low, sad, close to tears
  • Have some sensory integration problems
  • Feel worthless and a failure 

IMPACT ON LEARNING SKILLS & DEVELOPMENT

Bipolar Disorder is chronic and can cause (major) disruption in schooling for children and adolescents.

  • Easily distracted and lacking in focus
  • Might be excessively happy and cause disruption by laughing hysterically for no reason, followed by a depressive episode with loss of interest in activities or a low mood
  • Sleepy or slowed down by affects of medication
  • Organisational skills may be challenged
  • Compromised acquisition of knowledge
  • Difficulty with academic demands - e.g completing tasks
  • Performing below potential

Learning Strategies and Supports

  • Be aware of the impact of any medications
  • Set short, clearly defined targets
  • Teach self-help and orgnaisational skills - use visual cues if necessary
  • Use ICT to motivate and support learning
  • Encourage the use of headphones to shut out noise and distracton and aid concentration
  • Appraoch large tasks and assignemnts in smaller blocks of work
  • Allow extra time for completion of assignments  

SUPPORTS AVAILABLE

At Third Level Education:

Bipolar Disorder is is one of the Mental Health Conditions covered under the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) system.

Details of the DARE screening criteria for applicants with Bipolar Disorder are available here

Research findings from AHEAD released in 2015 show that, of the total disabled student population (9,694) at Third Level 2013/14 represented in the research, 1,054 (10.9%) have a Mental Health. The full report from AHEAD is available here.

In the Workplace

Under The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011 and the Equal Status Acts 2000-2011 discrimination is outlawed in the areas of employment, vocational training and access to education, among others. Discrimination, based on any one of nine distinct grounds, including disability, is unlawful.

All employers must make reasonable adjustments to make the employment of people with disabilities possible. This can include people with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses. 

Many organisations now make public claims to be an "equal opportunities employer". This suggests the existence of an equal opportunities policy (EOP), which is a policy statement adopted by the organisation declaring an intent not to discriminate and, further, to promote equality by taking steps to aid disadvantaged groups.  Such employers are in effect promising to avoid discrimination on grounds of sex or marital status, and may also make such a commitment in relation to people with a disability and racial and ethnic minorities.

IMPACT ON CAREER CHOICE

Skills for workplace success fall into two main categories: hard skills and and soft skills. Hard skills are job-specific and they vary, depending upon the industry or field in which you want to work. For example, a graphic artist must have the computer skills that go with that job.

Soft skills are the personal characteristics that go with a variety of jobs - they include social skills, problem solving, communication, time management, and organisation. For example, a person who prefers to work alone might find a research job particularly appealing. Explore Career Skills in more detail here.

People with bipolar disorder can benefit from completing a personal interest profiler and aptitude testing, which will help them identify potential career paths.

It is important to be realistic in weeding out any emerging jobs that might destabilise the symptoms e.g. jobs requiring frequent travel across time zones can disrupt sleep cycles, triggering attacks of mania. The requirements of certain jobs, such as night shifts, can be too much for someone with bipolar disorder.

Despite the challenges of Bipolar Disorder people with the condition can prosper in across all the high-achieving and fulfilling career paths. Research shows bipolar people to be unusually creative. ArtistsWriters and Work in the arts are excellent career choices for people with Bipolar. This creativity can be used in other career areas besides the arts.

Managing the condition by taking full entitlement to lunch breaks and holidays for adequate down-time can help reduce symptoms. Adequate self–management sometimes requires flexible working hours. To request this, employees need to reveal their diagnosis. This can be a difficult thing for employees, but can alos be very worthwhile.

Working as a contractor can be a good way to minimise the stress of office politics and stringent routines. Within careers such as accountancy, law and engineering, there are vast opportunities for contract work. At senior levels it can be possible to earn more annually from contracting than permanent work.

People diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder may be prevented from entering certain career areas, e.g. the Military.

Famous People with Bipolar Disorder

Actors Cathering Zeta-Jones, Rowan Atkinson, Jack Nicholson, Jim Carey and Ben Stiller; Singers and Musicians Sinead O'Conner, Madonna and Macy Gray and Jimi Hendrix.



Useful Links
NHS (UK) - Bipolar Disorder 
Health information portal of the NHS Service. Comprehensive information on Bipolar Disorder.
AWARE.ie  
Bipolar Disorder - A practical Guide Book (AWARE)  
Information booklet from AWARE for people with Bipolar Disorder.
HSE Ireland - Bipolar Disorder 
Health information portal of HSE Ireland - detailed information on Bipolar disorder
Disability Access Route to Education
Higher Education Access Route
Student Finance