Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Work and mental health
Work and mental health

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

4 Finding and keeping paid work

Both Nick and Louis wanted work careers. This will be challenging, especially in times of austerity. Even in 2007, a year before the UK entered the recession, 60 per cent of people with severe mental health problems and 36 per cent with mild or moderate difficulties were unemployed (OECD, 2014). These difficulties are not surprising. Several reports have identified barriers to finding work, including:

  • limited employment support
  • benefits system constraints
  • negative community attitudes
  • limiting practitioner expectations
  • difficult economic conditions.

What does it take to ensure that people with mental health problems can find and keep employment? As suggested in the list of barriers to finding work, there is more to it than simply providing employment support. Barriers such as negative community attitudes or difficult economic conditions mean that government interventions may be called for. Improving the employment opportunities of people with mental health problems involves employment support, government support and the assistance of mental health services.

In the next activity you will explore the issue of improving the employment opportunities of people with mental health problems by examining the stories of two people in the support they need.

Activity 4 Claire and Julie

Timing: Allow about 1 hour

Watch the video where Claire and Julie discuss returning to work and, using the table below, identify the challenges they faced. Having identified the challenges, what and to who would you recommend a necessary action to improve their employment chances? Be creative.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 3 Returning to work
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
Show transcript|Hide transcript
Video 3 Returning to work
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Interactive table 1  Supporting people with mental health problems in employment: challenges and recommendations

Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Comment

Here are some things we observed.

Example table 1  Supporting people with mental health problems in employment: challenges and recommendations
ChallengesRecommendations
Mental health services People with mental health problems often lack self-confidence.Employ coaches who can sensitively but assertively provide encouragement to apply for work.
Employers Mental health problems can fluctuate.Employers accommodate flexible working patterns such as reduced hours or phased return.
Government People fear that if they return to work but cannot cope, it will take a long time to reinstate their benefits. This may prevent them from seeking work.Improve the flexibility and responsiveness of the benefits system.

This last activity highlighted the challenges faced by people with mental health problems in finding and keeping work. Research has shown that the model depicted in the last activity – Individual Placement and Support – is one of the most effective at supporting people back to work (Mind, 2014, Thomas and Fraser, 2009). Furthermore, you may have noticed that this approach operates in a way that reflects the recovery principles you saw earlier in this course.