Mental Health – Supported Employment

I think employment is extremely important, or the opportunity of employment is extremely important for people with mental health difficulties and that’s whether it’s a more permanent mental health difficulty or a temporary mental health difficulty. I think that it can add an awful lot to somebody’s life and the benefits from it, if we look at it in terms of social exclusion, because that would be one of the biggest factors for people with a mental health difficulties, is how they feel excluded from society and excluded from the main run of things. The biggest support I think is including people in the decisions that are made around their employment and the type of employment that they have. Treating people as an individual and getting to know what they are good at. Some of the most brightest people and the people that have most to contribute in an employment situation, that I have come across, are people who have experienced mental health difficulties. I suppose that is no surprise as 25% of people, the population as a whole, will experience mental health difficulties at some time in their life. One of the greatest difficulties I would come across in working in community development in this organisation and I know that it’s borne out as well in research, is the difficulty in somebody who has had mental health difficulties getting back for the first time into employment. It is that first step, the first job if you like, and it is that employer giving a chance to that person and not being prejudiced of what baggage they might have or what preconceptions they might have around mental health. And a lot of that I feel comes from the misunderstanding of mental health and what mental health is about. And a fear, that people are afraid, employers are often afraid that if I engage this person and ok they’re well now what happens if they have mental health difficulties down the line, are they going to cost the company or the organisation money? Am I as an employer going to be able to handle what that might mean for me. In terms of supported employment and supporting employers I think it’s very important that the agencies and organisations tasked with examining and supporting the issue look at those fears and aren’t afraid to name them. So if you’re talking with an employer that you say, are you afraid of this situation, are you afraid of what this might bring up for you? Let’s sit down, let’s talk about it, ignorance creates greater fear and I don’t say ignorance in the sense of it being a negative word, but the lack of knowledge around the whole issue of mental health and the stigma that has build up over the years around the issue is the greatest barrier. And if we can break down that barrier then I think we can achieve an awful lot and we can also make much better use of the resources that are available to us in addressing this issue.

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