Support from friends and family
We asked people about the informal or non-workplace forms of support that they drew upon. Although this was not our main focus, we want to locate people’s experiences of long term conditions and disability within their wider lives. Some people explained that they sought to manage their condition privately. Others said they neither needed nor required or had access to much support from friends or family. However, for others friends and family were an important resource to draw upon to support the emotional and practical labour they had to undertake to come to work each day.
Conversations with friends and family helped some people understand what it was to live with a long term condition or disability. As Lyn said about finding out she has dyslexia, “it was helpful that my friend could see it, and knew it. And she still is my friend”. For others family could challenge the diagnosis they had been given, as Frances found, “And when I told my sister and brother about the dyslexia, it was ‘Oh, you haven't got dyslexia.’”
Friends and family can also encourage people to seek help from professionals. Charlotte explained that a friend suggested she should see if occupational health had a specialist in mental health to support her with her Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Frances got help from the union, an idea she got from “My sister [who] suggested that I join the union, which I'd never done before. And so I did.”
Some people found that building up social networks of friends was helpful, especially those who had moved to the city for work. Various forms of social networks were suggested such as, joining sport or activity based clubs, socialising websites that help arrange face-to-face outings, or the university’s Oxford Research Staff Society [link to Resources].
One type of non-work support that some people used were formal or professional support groups. These include therapeutic groups, such as counselling or mindfulness courses; specific condition groups related to charitable organisations (see Resources page for details); and the Staff Disability Adviser (See Staff Disability Adviser) along with the meetings and online discussion groups (e.g. Disabled Staff Network, see Resources) available there. These could provide a useful place for some people to learn new strategies to manage their condition. Sometimes this came via formal classes or the meeting people with similar conditions.