If you’ve ever been unemployed or at a job that isn’t a right fit for you, you know why having a fulfilling job matters. For those with a serious mental illness, securing a job may be challenging due to symptoms, stigma, or a variety of other reasons. But, with the right support, people living with mental illness can not only find careers, but they can thrive in them.
Jobs don’t just provide people financial support, they also can give people a sense of belonging, a community, and a feeling of being needed.
We talked to Dana, Employment Specialist on the Employment Services team, about the specifics of how having a job can help individuals with a serious mental illness.
Q: We know it’s harder for those living with mental illness to secure a long-term job. What difficulties do individuals with a serious mental illness face when trying to find and keep a job?
Dana: The biggest difficulty I would have to say is confidence. Mental illness can be very isolating, and when a person has been out of circulation, it can be difficult to get back in. I have noticed that many times there is a lack of clarity about the expectations of the employer and workplace as well as a fear of being able to meet those expectations. When people have been “off track” because of a mental health struggle, there can be a period of time when bad things happen, so having a criminal history or work gap can be difficult barriers to overcome in terms of being selected for hire. There can be a noticeable difference in appearance which can create uncertainty for an employer who may have unspoken concerns or questions.
Q: How does having a job help people with a serious mental illness?
Dana: Being with others, being appreciated, having a purpose and structure can be tremendously healing.
Q: What differences do you see in Employment Services clients after they find a job?
Dana: Many times I see a person literally come to life. Work can be a big part of any person’s life but for some it can be their lifeline!
Q: What advice would you give to individuals with a mental illness on finding a job that’s right for them?
Dana: Think about what you love to do or what you used to love to do. Look for jobs that tap into the same parts of you. We are usually good at what we like to do. Taking small steps is fine and can lead to bigger things. This looks different for different people but the main thing is to start with what works for now and find ways to grow.
Guild’s Employment Services
Our Employment Services help individuals with a serious mental illness get and keep employment of their choice. Having a job can be crucial to the recovery process.
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