America’s Recovery is Powered by Inclusion, Including Those in Recovery

As we continue through National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) we’re turning this year’s theme, America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion, on its head a bit. For NDEAM, recovery refers to our nation recovering economically from the job and financial losses of the coronavirus pandemic. For people with mental illness, recovery is the process of change through which they improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to achieve their full potential. Meaningful employment is an important part of the recovery process. Research shows that people with mental health concerns, even those with serious mental illness, report that work is important — it has personal meaning, and it promotes recovery. Work promotes pride and self-esteem, offers financial benefits, and provides coping strategies. Yet people with serious mental illness have very high unemployment rates for many reasons, including stigma and barriers to services. Programs and services like supported employment, peer counseling, and entrepreneurship can help. Employers can also do more to support an inclusive and welcoming workplace for their employees with mental illness. 

As we celebrate NDEAM and our continuing recovery, here are some evidence-based resources from the NIDILRR grantee community and elsewhere to ensure that workers with mental illness are integral parts of that process.

For Everyone

Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace and the ADA – This factsheet from the ADA National Network covers myths and facts about people with mental illness in the workforce, issues of disclosure and accommodation, and practical points for job seekers, employees, and employers.

For Those Seeking Employment and Those on the Job

A Practical Guide for People with Mental Health Conditions Who Want to Work (PDF) – This  comprehensive guide covers the importance of work, challenges and overcoming barriers, empowerment, planning, job seeking skills, work incentives, your rights in the workplace, and services and supports for the long term. Developed by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Community Living and Participation of People with Serious Mental Illness.

Seeking Supported Employment: What You Need to Know –  This workbook is designed to help people learn about what supported employment is, and decide whether they’d like to receive services from a supported employment program. It also guides users through a process to identify a program with the types of services that research shows help people get and keep jobs. Developed by the RRTC on Integrated Health Care and Self-Directed Recovery.

Reclaiming Employment – This resource is designed for people with mental illness who are interested in self-employment and entrepreneurship. This website includes a library of resources and information based on research and interviews with those who have successfully launched their self-employment while in recovery. Developed under NIDILRR-funded Field Initiated and Small Business Innovation Research grants.

Yes, You Can Work! – This factsheet from the SOAR Works program at SAMHSA covers the myths and facts about working while receiving SSI/SSDI benefits.

For Young People Starting Out

Tips and Tools for Employment – This is a collection of resources, including factsheets and infocomics, for young people with mental illness who are transitioning into the workforce. Developed by the RRTC on Living and Working During the Transition to Employment.

For Employers Supporting Their Workers in Recovery

Creating Welcoming Mental Health Work Environments – Even within mental health agencies, a workplace can be inclusive of people with mental illness. This publication from the RRTC on Community Living and Participation of People with Serious Mental Illness offers a set of ideas and strategies that can be implemented to better support agency colleagues by creating and maintaining a positive, supporting, and welcoming work environment.

Supporting Employees with Mental Health Disabilities – This article from the Society of Human Resource Professionals (SHRM) guides HR professionals in ways they can support their employees with mental illness so they can thrive in the workplace.

For Service Providers

A Practical Guide for People with Mental Health Conditions Who Want to Work – Facilitators Manual (PDF) – This manual was created for service providers who want to develop structured or semi-structured ways to use the guide described above with groups who are considering work. Also developed by the RRTC on Community Living and Participation of People with Serious Mental Illness.

Effectively Employing Young Adult Peer Providers – A Toolkit – This toolkit was developed for service providers bringing young adults with lived experience on to support others in recovery. The toolkit touches on establishing a supportive organizational culture, effective supervision, accommodations, infrastructure, standards, and more. From the RRTC on Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood.

The Roles of Peer Specialists in Promoting Competitive Employment (PDF) – This report was created for agencies considering peer specialists (individuals with lived experience in mental health who are trained to provide support and assistance services to others in recovery). This publication provides an overview of the roles of these specialists along with regulatory and funding guidance.

These are just a few examples of resources available to support job seekers and workers with mental illness, as well as their employers and the service providers who are focused on their success. Please contact our information specialists if we can assist you in identifying additional information sources or if you would like to learn more about research in employment and mental illness.

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