An Inclusive Workforce Includes People with Mental Health Conditions

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week and today happens to be World Mental Health Day. These observances land in the midst of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) which, this year, is focusing on the benefits of an inclusive workforce. Today’s Spotlight post looks at some of the research and resources from NIDILRR-funded projects that aim to support people with mental health conditions or psychiatric disabilities who are transitioning to the workforce, seeking employment or self-employment, or are part of an integrated workplace.

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Improving Employment Outcomes for Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities* develops technology, examines individual and work environment factors associated with improved employment outcomes, and investigates the effects of government practices, policies, and programs on employment outcomes for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. The center offers resources for employees, families, hiring managers, and counselors alike, including:

For young people with mental health conditions or psychiatric disabilities, moving from school into the workplace can seem like an overwhelming challenge. How do I start the job search? How will work affect my health? What about my benefits? Should I tell my employer about my condition? What if I need help on the job? The RRTC on Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood* (Transitions ACR) aims to improve the supports for youth and young adults with serious mental health conditions to successfully complete their schooling or training and move into rewarding work lives. Visit their website to find:

For programs and agencies who support these young people, Helping Youth on the Path to Employment (HYPE) assists young adults with mental health conditions to develop the necessary skills and support needed to identify, choose, and achieve meaningful careers. Learn more about HYPE and how to implement it in your organization.

Supported employment refers to a range of services offered to help a person with a mental health condition succeed in competitive employment. It can include vocational counseling, on-the-job assistance, peer counseling and more. The RRTC on Integrated Health Care and Self-Directed Recovery* offers a guide on the topic: Seeking Supported Employment: What you need to know

Entrepreneurship and self-employment may offer people with mental health conditions viable options as they enter the workforce. A recent project on Workers with Psychiatric Disabilities and Self-Employment Through Microenterprise published three research briefs on the topic:

  • Characteristics of Businesses and Business Owners
  • Being and Becoming Self-Employed
  • Planning for the Future: Growth-Oriented Entrepreneurship

The RRTC on Community Living and Participation for Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities has also explored employment and psychiatric disability, including supported employment, identifying and addressing barriers to competitive work, and ways to create welcoming workplaces for people with mental health conditions, including the fields of academia and mental health.  They also produced a Practical Guide for People with Mental Health Conditions who Want to Work.

These are just a few examples of work the NIDILRR grantee community is currently doing to support people with mental health conditions and psychiatric disabilities to achieve their employment goals. More work is on the horizon, including new technology solutions, interventions, and programs. Explore more projects in this area in the NIDILRR Program Database.

Want a deeper dive into the research? Explore recent publications indexed in REHABDATA:

*These projects are also supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

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