Mental Health And Employment Issues

Of all the persons with mental disabilities, those with a serious mental illness face the highest degree of stigmatization in their workplace, and the greatest barriers to employment. Many and diverse employment obstacles face adults with mental disabilities, such as gaps in work history, limited employment experience, lack of confidence, fear and anxiety, workplace discrimination and inflexibility, social stigma and the rigidity of existing income support or benefit programs.

The unemployment rate of people with serious mental illness reflects these obstacles in workplaces and has been commonly reported to range from 70-90%, depending on the severity of the disability. These statistical data are particularly disturbing in light of the fact that productive work has been identified as a leading component in promoting positive mental health and in paving the way for a rich and fulfilling life in the community.

Access to significant, paid work is a basic human right for each and every citizen, and those who experience serious mental illness or disability should have equal access to the fundamental elements of citizenship which include: housing, education, income and work. This actually means that each individual has the right to be employed in a mainstream job, rather than being labeled as a client in a training program or a sheltered workshop.

The Routes to Work plan has been helping put people with a serious illness or mental disability on the path to mainstream employment since 2000, by creating and implementing employment support strategies. They provide disabled individuals with psychiatric disabilities with assistance in areas such as skills development, education upgrading; career decision-making; resume writing; job search and employment maintenance.

About 1 among 6 adults has a mental health problem according to the statistical data. More than one million people with mental impairment claim incapacity benefit for mental health problems. Mental illness or disability costs society 25bn a year, according to "happiness guru" Lord Layard. 3 in 10 employees will usually experience mental health problems during a single year and the number of workdays estimated being lost each year to stress, depression and anxiety. People with mental health problems or some illness have the highest "want to work rate" of out of work people with up to 90% wanting to work.

Only around 20% of people with severe mental health problems or disability are employed, compared to 65% of people with physical health problems and 75% for the whole adult population. Even for people with more common types of mental disability or illness, such as depression, only about half are competitively employed. In a statistical survey of people who were "out" about their mental health problems or illness at work found most colleagues to be accepting. Though only half of the people said they had had the support they needed and 13% said they seldom or never had it. Some of the disabled people reported being patronized by management or monitored more closely than other colleagues.

One third of people with serious mental health problems or mental disability say that they have been dismissed or forced to resign from their jobs. 40% of the people say that they were denied a job because of their history of psychiatric treatment and about 60% say they have been put off applying for a job as they expect to be dealt with unfairly.