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Thread: Applying with a history of depression?

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    Default Applying with a history of depression?

    Hello all. I'm 23 and am graduating with a degree in TESOL magna cumlaude with a minor in Japanese. I've been wanting to do the Jet Program for a long time, but I'm worried that my history of depression will adversely affect me when it comes to applying for the program. I definitely am not going to lie about it. I self harmed alongside with my depression, so it's not something that I can lie about even if I wanted to. There's no way to convince anyone what the scars are. It's completely obvious, and the only way for me to hide them is to wear long sleeve shirts.

    Anyways, I self harmed and was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder when I was 15. All of this was suddenly brought on by the suicide of someone that I was extremely close to. I was sent to a psychiatrist who put me on an anti depressant. I was taken off of that anti depressant within a year by the psychiatrist, and I stopped seeing him about three months after I turned 16. I have not had a single episode of depression or self harm since then. It's been a little over seven years since the last incident, so I'm safe to say that I've been stable for quite awhile.

    Also, while in college, I did do a semester abroad in Japan. Although it's not nearly the same as working in Japan and having to pay bills, I do have some experience being over there. I also have done a semester abroad in Germany where I had teach to students who didn't speak English to qualify for my TEFL certificate. I do have some teaching experience under my belt.

    I'm going to be honest on my self assessment medical form, and I know that my physician will give me the all clear to go on the form that I have to give her. However, I did want to possibly make a career out of teaching English in Japan by possibly becoming a direct hire ALT after I finished my time with the Jet program. So my main questions are these:

    Will my history of depression cause me to become waitlisted or completely denied from the Jet Program?

    Will my history of depression bar me from becoming a direct hire ALT and working inside of a Japanese school system?

    I understand why the importance of mental health is there. I'm going to be a teacher in charge of children. That's one of the last jobs that anyone wants a mentally unstable person in. I get that. However, I know the stigma is incredibly harsh over in Japan, and I don't want this incident that I did nearly 10 years ago to follow me like a black mark wherever I go.

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    Resident ewok wicket's Avatar
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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    In theory, as long as you have a doctor who can vouch for you, you're fine.
    In practice, if you think you're going to be "a teacher in charge of children" and put anything like that on your application, you probably won't even get an interview. The A in ALT stands for "assistant" and the JTEs are the ones "in charge".
    "Like anyone with a sliver of honesty in them I believe what I find I believe when I wake up each morning."
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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by ちから View Post
    cumlaude
    I thought I was the only one.

    Quote Originally Posted by ちから View Post
    Rest of post.
    If the rest of your application is good, you'll be fine. Just be honest and matter-of-fact in your personal medical statement and it shouldn't be a problem.

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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    I would still not get an interview despite all of my other strong points? I mean, I've been seven year clean, and I have a pretty good application, in my eyes. That one severe episode of depression nearly ten years ago is still going to ruin me despite all that I've accomplished since then?

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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by ちから View Post
    Hello all. I'm 23 and am graduating with a degree in TESOL magna cumlaude with a minor in Japanese.
    First of all, congratulations overcoming all these trials and obstacles in your life. Because of my degree and my own personal experiences, I am heavily involved in working with others who struggle with mental and emotional illnesses and difficulties. Not as many people have made it as far as you have in your situation, so you should be proud of yourself.

    Like others have said, the history of depression shouldn't affect your chances of working with JET. Their main concern is "can this person do the job or will they totally flake as soon as they get to Japan?" I personally know a few former JETs who had doctors give notice that they had not had an episode in x years or that took several bottles of x medication with them so they could get through the experience. I think some people on the forums have mentioned that there are some kind of counselling services available in Japan once you get there. Not sure what that entails, but you might want to scour the forums and see if anyone else has brought it up recently.

    Side question, did you apply for this year (2016) or are you planning on applying for next year (2017)?

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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by ちから View Post
    I would still not get an interview despite all of my other strong points? I mean, I've been seven year clean, and I have a pretty good application, in my eyes. That one severe episode of depression nearly ten years ago is still going to ruin me despite all that I've accomplished since then?
    I think you misread Wicket's advice.
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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    yeah, as wicket was saying

    went spastic with a box cutter a decade ago because crazy aunt joan took a swan dive into the asphalt - not a big deal
    think you are going to be a teacher who is going to placed in charge of anything other than the CD player - shows a lack of understanding about the JET program
    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ini View Post
    went spastic with a box cutter a decade ago because crazy aunt joan took a swan dive into the asphalt - not a big deal
    I'll take Shakespeare quote for a thousand, Alex.

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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ini View Post
    think you are going to be a teacher who is going to placed in charge of anything other than the CD player - shows a lack of understanding about the JET program
    Assuming that you'll have a cushy enough job to only worry about having to operate a CD player - also foolishly presumptive.
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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    It's not a problem, chikan.

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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    Assuming that you'll have a cushy enough job to only worry about having to operate a CD player - also foolishly presumptive.
    cobbling together some clumsy "oral communication" "curriculum" and setting a multiple choice test at the end isnt the same as being legally responsible for the welfare and moral education of a group of childen.
    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ini View Post
    cobbling together some clumsy "oral communication" "curriculum" and setting a multiple choice test at the end isnt the same as being legally responsible for the welfare and moral education of a group of childen.
    I would know that actually.
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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    So you know that JETs aren't in charge of anything for obvious legal reasons, glad to see you agree with me.
    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ini View Post
    So you know that JETs aren't in charge of anything for obvious legal reasons, glad to see you agree with me.
    Not sure what you're doing there, but yes I do agree with that statement. You'll only actually be in charge of something if you're hired privately or have an actual Japanese teaching license - in which case you won't be on JET.

    But the common joke that ALTs are just human tape recorders - or worse just tape recorder operators - is kind of silly. I was hoping for a nice cushy read the passage job - and here I am actually having to do teacher stuff.

    Edit: even still my job is cush AF. I can't believe some of the stories of people getting extended vacations and doing literally nothing all day. Ok that'S enough Off topic from me. sorry.
    Last edited by Virgil; January 12th, 2016 at 15:05.
    Quote Originally Posted by Shincantsen View Post
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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by ちから View Post
    I would still not get an interview despite all of my other strong points? I mean, I've been seven year clean, and I have a pretty good application, in my eyes. That one severe episode of depression nearly ten years ago is still going to ruin me despite all that I've accomplished since then?
    Oops, my post was ambiguous. I didn't mean if you put your history of depression on your application. I meant if you put "I'm going to be a teacher in charge of children" on your application. Hope that clears that up. And sorry for the confusion.
    "Like anyone with a sliver of honesty in them I believe what I find I believe when I wake up each morning."
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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Thank you guys for the replies. Sorry I got confused about how you worded your statement, wicket. After going back and rereading it, I caught what you were saying.

    I understand that the ALT is an assistant rather than a full blown teacher. I suppose what I was meaning to say was that I was going to be responsible for the students' welfare. For example, if the teacher leaves the room, and I'm there while some students get into an altercation, I would be responsible for separating and defusing the situation. That's my fault for using the wrong choice of words and not being clear enough.

    Thanks again for clearing all this up for me, guys. This has been eating away at me in the back of mind for awhile, and I'm glad to hear that it won't hold me back when I go to apply this year for a job. Just one more question. I know this is a JET program board, but is it hard to get raises while in Japan? Hypothetically speaking, let's say I get into JET, do my three years, and find out that I want to stay in Japan teaching English. I get a job as a direct hire ALT or something. How hard is it to get a raise after teaching for awhile? Here in the US, teachers get paid a raise depending on how long they've been with the school as well as their degree level (Bachelor's or Master's). How does Japan work? I've done some research on the entry level pay grade, and it seems that most seem to pay ¥250,000 - ¥280,000 per month.

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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Those type of situations are not what they are afraid of with an individual who has experience depression. They are far more concerned that they are going to spend thousands of dollars to bring you to japan only for your depression to kick in due to a) culture shock b) isolation c) inability to cope. I've met ALTs who are depressives, who seem fine, but shortly after coming to Japan revert to previous habbits to not deal with their depression. Those are the ones that scare them, individuals who are stable in their comfortable environment but are incapable of adapting to a new environment which can be drastically different to the environment hat the individual has become accustomed to.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cytrix View Post
    Organising anything with ALTs is like herding cats on catnip

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    We Jeeperneez are express all emotion through money. Wedding is happy money. Funeral is sad money. Izakaya is friendship money. Girl-bar is almost-sex money. But babby-borning is bery happy money, as no babby in Japan. All babby is special so we is givings much money as presento for babby.

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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by ちから View Post
    Thank you guys for the replies. Sorry I got confused about how you worded your statement, wicket. After going back and rereading it, I caught what you were saying.

    I understand that the ALT is an assistant rather than a full blown teacher. I suppose what I was meaning to say was that I was going to be responsible for the students' welfare. For example, if the teacher leaves the room, and I'm there while some students get into an altercation, I would be responsible for separating and defusing the situation. That's my fault for using the wrong choice of words and not being clear enough.

    Thanks again for clearing all this up for me, guys. This has been eating away at me in the back of mind for awhile, and I'm glad to hear that it won't hold me back when I go to apply this year for a job. Just one more question. I know this is a JET program board, but is it hard to get raises while in Japan? Hypothetically speaking, let's say I get into JET, do my three years, and find out that I want to stay in Japan teaching English. I get a job as a direct hire ALT or something. How hard is it to get a raise after teaching for awhile? Here in the US, teachers get paid a raise depending on how long they've been with the school as well as their degree level (Bachelor's or Master's). How does Japan work? I've done some research on the entry level pay grade, and it seems that most seem to pay ¥250,000 - ¥280,000 per month.
    I'd concentrate on getting in first before thinking 4 years ahead. ALT isn't a career and it's not easy to find work that pays more than 250-280 a month, but with good Japanese and a bit of networking / arselicking you can open doors elsewhere.

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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrcharisma View Post
    networking / arselicking you can open doors elsewhere.
    Can confirm.
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    Default Re: Applying with a history of depression?

    Quote Originally Posted by ちから View Post
    Just one more question. I know this is a JET program board, but is it hard to get raises while in Japan? Hypothetically speaking, let's say I get into JET, do my three years, and find out that I want to stay in Japan teaching English. I get a job as a direct hire ALT or something. How hard is it to get a raise after teaching for awhile? Here in the US, teachers get paid a raise depending on how long they've been with the school as well as their degree level (Bachelor's or Master's). How does Japan work? I've done some research on the entry level pay grade, and it seems that most seem to pay ¥250,000 - ¥280,000 per month.
    a brief guide to making money in the murky world of post jet english teaching by professor Ini Kamoze.
    just a few examples of how to put chuhai on the table once the JET gravy train comes to an end.

    First the basics - for people looking to stay in japan a little bit longer/fed up with their JET placement so looking to move somewhere new/for people with no drive or ambition

    ・Get a job at a dispatch English company (interac/borderlink/heart/etc)
    pay is very low. no real progression available as an ALT. They do offer token "promotions" to things like "area co-ordinator", "head teacher", "consultant" but because the starting salary is so low by the time you get to "consultant" you still wont be making a great deal of cash.

    ・Direct Hire ALT at BOE/private school
    A lot of places based their contract on the standard JET contract of yesteryear and have not bothered to update it so you could get 30man+ a month but its basically the same job/responsibilities as JET so no real chance of progression/pay rises.

    ・Conversation school
    a terrible place where you spend your weekends and evenings teaching housewives and the elderly. Main function of your job is to sell more lessons. pay is crap.

    next level - for people with a bit of hustle/actual qualifications in something

    ・Teaching at a private school
    ranges from sort of an ALT+ position to full blown teacher. More responsibility, better salary - probably require you to have some sort of teaching qualification from your own country. If you stick around long enough there is the possibility of getting a quasi-teaching certificate in Japan but you would only be able to teach in private schools with it.

    ・Teaching at a university
    You will need a masters for this and the jobs tend not to be advertised that much, normally go on recommendations from current staff at the institution. Pay is good just try not to sleep with your students.

    ・Corporate gig.
    If you have some experience of working in a professional environment/have a professional degree/are good at bullshitting there are options for working at a company. These are normally part time affairs only 1-2 a week so you would have to string together a number of them although if your Japanese is good you could land a full time CIR type role where you do some translating, deal with visiting foreign guests as well as teaching the secretaries how to respond to an email without having to resort to google translate. Pay and chances of promotion depends on how good a job you do, the health of the company and your ability to slowly switch your job from "guy who teachers the english classes as well as doing a few other things around the office to guy who does some actual work as well as teaching a few english classes"

    ・Private classes/conversation schools/part time ALT-ing/corporate gig combo
    This is for people with lots of drive, no desire for any free time and lust for cash over quality of life. Plenty of places pay very good hourly rates when they need some sort of English donkey for only a few hours at a time. If you are willing to work every hour god sends its possible to string together multiple part time gigs together into a fairly high wage. I wouldn't say this is a healthy or enjoyable way to spend your time and I cant see anyone doing it for more than a year or 2 but theres money to be made.

    Next level is pretty rare and hard/almost impossible to come across

    ・BOE job
    As a roundeye you wont be getting a fulltime job in a school anytime soon but that doesnt mean you cant get a fulltime job at the BOE. You will need to go through the civil servants training program that the prefecture runs for everyone who wants to work for a city/town hall. This amazing waste of time teaches you how to serve tea in the correct manner and what to do if a member of the public becomes belligerent and violent while waiting in line for their inkan shomeisho. This is all done in japanese of course and nobody is going to go easy on you so your language abilities need to be pretty high. Once you get that technically you could be sent to any department in city/town hall but in reality you will rot away in the BOE dealing with ALTs and anything related to English education while also being a general office bitch. You will be on the official civil servants pay scale though which includes annual bonuses and regular pay rises. Also the constitutions of each prefecture and even each municipality are different and some expressly say "Japanese citizens only" so it comes down to how racist your area is.

    ・Full Teacher in a public school
    This is all but impossible. You would need to take Japanese citizenship (no mean feat), go to university then pass your teaching exams (no mean feat even with N1 Japanese on the JLPT) then find a local authority/school/PTA that would be willing to accept a foreigner as a teacher.


    These are just a few examples of things I've come across over the years. Of course you could dump English teaching all together and go do a proper job but what sort of weirdo wants to do that?
    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

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