Almost as far back as she can remember, Jackie May has struggled with depression and anxiety although she was only officially diagnosed two years ago.
Jackie, 31, who lives in Broadgate, Preston, says: “I think it could have stemmed from being bullied throughout my school years though I haven’t figured out my triggers yet.
I found interviews very challenging because of my anxiety. It was a massive barrier which stopped me applying for any jobs, but when I began working with the Prince’s Trust, my confidence really improved.
“I think I have always had depression.
“I knew I had depression while I was at college as I could only manage a year before I had to quit.
“My anxiety was only officially diagnosed two years ago when the doctor started me on medication but I’ve had symptoms for years.
“I couldn’t function and didn’t want to do anything. I lost all motivation and hated myself and hated my life.”
With most of our adult lives spent in work, there is a real focus on the importance of mental health in the workplace.
Jackie embarked on a 12-week personal development programme as part of the M&S Make Your Mark scheme run in partnership with The Prince’s Trust.
The programme gave her new skills for managing her depression as well as providing an introduction to the workplace – something that was always a daunting prospect for Jackie before.
As a result of the scheme, Jackie felt confident enough to apply for a Christmas postition in the Preston store which resulted in her appointment in a full-time role in Preston.
Jackie recalls: “After I left college due to my illness, I didn’t know what to do.
“I found interviews very challenging because of my anxiety. It was a massive barrier which stopped me applying for any jobs, but when I began working with the Prince’s Trust, my confidence really improved.
“I was at my lowest before I joined the Prince’s Trust Course and took part in Marks and Start after a two-week work experience as part of the course.
“I was really nervous about going on the Prince’s Trust course because I had already pretty much given up that I’d ever find a job and though I’d never have a life – but I’m so glad I did it. By the end of the placement, my colleagues encouraged me to apply for a permanent role at M&S and I was offered a position in the bakery team.
“I never would have believed I could do a job like that which involves so much interaction with people.
“But the skills I’ve gained have helped me to succeed and I really want to be an advocate for other people in the same position now.” Yannis Munro, mental health advisor at The Prince’s Trust, says: “Mental health issues should not be a barrier to young people having the chance to succeed in Life.
“Jackie is among an increasing number of young people on our programmes who say they are experiencing a mental health problem.
“While this is a worrying trend, we believe that by supporting young people to develop their self confidence and skills for work through initiatives like Make Your Mark, we can make a positive difference.”
The M&S Marks and Start and Make Your Mark schemes have helped thousands who face barriers in the workplace including those suffering with mental health illnesses, take that all-important step back into employment.
The programmes are run in partnership with The Prince’s Trust, Remploy, Gingerbread and Business in the Community.
The initiative delivers a supported work placement programme giving those who are taking part the opportunity to discover a career in retail while receiving guidance from a range of mentors and in-store buddies.
Many participants have enjoyed successful careers at M&S.
Jackie says: “The M&S scheme made me realise that I was actually employable.
“They gave me a chance even though I was quiet and could barely speak to my peers let alone customers.
“M&S prides itself on giving quality customer serivce and they saw potential in me.
“It allowed me to grow into myself and let my confidence develop at my own pace.
“I make sure I always give it my best and put the customers first even though I was struggling at first.”