View Full Version : Employment advice for those with mental health problems

04-Oct-12, 13:33
New post will support job seekers

NHS Highland has introduced a new post to support people with mental health problems on their journey to employment.
People with mental health problems are less likely to be employed than any other group of disabled people. In Scotland, as many as 90,000 people are unemployed due to a mental health problem. Despite these high figures, studies have shown that most people with mental health problems want to work and are able to do so with the right support.
Earlier this year members of NHS Highland met with the Highland Users Group (HUG) in Inverness to discuss how difficult it can be to find employment.
HUG is a group which represents the interests of people using mental health services across the Highlands. It also provides a friendly and supportive meeting place where people can share their experiences.
Elkie has been attending the group for several years and says she now has a permanent position working for Highland Council.
She said: “I think a lot of it comes down to educating employers so that they know a bit more and are more understanding and tolerant.
“My former line manager has been absolutely fantastic in supporting me. She was genuinely interested in how I experience life and managed to harness my unique insights and strengths. Some of my colleagues have various disabilities or special needs which are also acknowledged and catered for.
Elkie added: "Fortunately for me she had a relative with a mental health problem, so she understood that it’s something I can’t help and that I needed support like any other member of staff with a disability. It has been no more difficult for them to support me than any other member of staff.
If I were a wheelchair user ramps would be put in, toilets would be made accessible etc. This is no different from that. It’s all about accommodating individual, working needs.”
Another member of HUG commented: “I can’t sit still and be bored like some. I have to be active, doing something. My boss often lets me change my hours round to catch my bursts of energy and harness them. It’s through accommodating, supportive gestures like these that Elkie and others have been able to take advantage of their skills and energy and work well. However, theirs is not the story of many other people suffering mental health problems. Other members, Laura and Diane, outlined some of the difficulties facing people with mental health problems who want to work.
Laura said: “It’s really hard to get in to work. But, it’s even harder if you’ve got a mental health problem. Some employers just don’t want to know. They don’t recognise the same achievements I do.”
Diane added: “One of the worst thing about being unemployed is the boredom. Boredom more than anything else. There’s only so many times you can go window shopping.”
Taking the initiative can sometimes be thwarted by encountering stigma. Diane described her treatment at a local government agency.
“I walked in and handed the lady behind the desk the form. On the form it says I have a mental health problem, she looked up at me and said ‘oh God not another one.’’’
Another member, Shane, revealed he had decided to leave his work after being told to ‘change who you are’ repeatedly by his manager.
NHS Highland & Job Centre Plus are taking steps to address these problems so that people with mental health problems do not have to face unemployment alone.
The organisations submitted a joint bid to the Scottish Government’s Health works Development Fund to second an Employment Specialist three days per week for one year to be embedded within the Mental Health Rehabilitation Service and Inverness Community Mental Health Team to provide support for those with severe and enduring mental illness wishing to gain employment. It would also support them and their employer during employment.
This kind of support is called IPS (Individual Placement Support). Research shows that services which faithfully follow the principles of IPS get more people into employment than those services that do not.
Primarily, IPS is designed ‘not to change the individual, but to find a natural match between the individual’s strengths and experiences and a job in the community’. It’s a pioneering decision, as the pilot scheme, which is being run in Inverness, is the first of its kind in the North of Scotland. Although employment is widely acknowledged by clinical teams as important in treating mental illness, this service had never previously been put into everyday practice.
As from September Lynn Holmes from Job Centre Plus is working as a team member of mental health services to test this approach and discover its effectiveness for people in the Inverness area before looking at rolling it out across the region.
She said: “I am delighted to be working with the NHS Community Mental Health Team on this pilot scheme and feel this a really important step to helping people with mental health issues look at the world of work and finding the right pathway for them.
“It is completely voluntary and based on what each person thinks they are able to do. Help will be individually tailored and will continue when work is undertaken as this can be a big step to achieving their long term goals."