It is widely acknowledged that periods of mental ill health can make it challenging to both find and retain employment, with research indicating a higher level of unemployment for people living with a mental health condition than the general population (1).
Alongside financial gains and security, employment has the potential to boost wellbeing, provide a sense of purpose, identity and self-worth (1). Whilst long periods of unemployment can compromise mental health further (2).
Getting back into employment increases the likelihood of reporting improved mental health almost threefold (3) and is a fundamental part of a person’s recovery journey. However, it can be challenging for people living with a mental health condition to navigate employment services alongside mental health care.
As Will Hebditch, Employment Programmes Manager at Mental Health UK attests:
– Will Hebditch, Employment Programmes Manager at Mental Health UK
"Most of the people referred to our Into Work service have experienced barriers and challenges with employment. The pressures around finding employment are considerable, especially at a time when the cost of living is increasing. For someone living with a mental health condition, who is also navigating the support from mental health service, the pressures of finding employment can be incredibly overwhelming."
Earlier this year, a team of Employment Specialists was established to deliver the Into Work service across Gravesend, Harrow and Wrexham. Collaboration is pivotal to the success of the service, and the team has been forging incredible partnerships within the community, across all sectors; such as job centres, Community Mental Health teams, local support groups and third sector organisations. Mental Health Employment Specialists have a physical presence in the community thanks to the close working relationship with local job centres. The service has already received a staggering 148 referrals in less than six months and have witnessed first-hand the positive changes people have made.
– Will Hebditch, Employment Programmes Manager at Mental Health UK
"The journey into employment is different for everyone and this is the key strength of Into Work. We work with the person to create a holistic support plan tailored around their needs. Throughout our one-to-one sessions we look at how we can support other issues that might be impacting on their employment journey and opportunities such as their finances, housing, social connectedness, mental health support and more."
The range of support provided by our Mental Health Employment Specialists includes:
- Building an employment profile: identifying their work aspirations, interests, skills, abilities and motivations.
- Supporting the employment journey: from creating a CV, applying for jobs, interview preparation to in-work support.
- Employer engagement: identifying and building positive relationships with potential employers on their behalf and establishing positive pathways for mentally healthy workplaces.
- Ongoing in-work support: continuous coaching and mentoring to help build confidence whilst retaining employment.
- Wraparound wellbeing support: throughout their journey they will be supported in other areas of their life that might be challenging such as, providing advice on money and access to welfare benefits, keeping them connected in their community etc.
One of the clients of Into Work in Gravesend, referred to us by his local Job Centre, shared his experience of the service. Alan (age 28) had been diagnosed as a teenager with a personality disorder and an anxiety condition and his mental health condition had severely impacted his quality of life. Social settings were especially challenging for him, being in busy environments, full of people and noise. Alan’s previous retail employment had presented him with so many challenges that he found it hard to adjust, which took its toll on his mental health. Despite Alan’s strong desire to gain a sense of self-worth and accomplishment through employment, he had expressed little hope that he would find suitable employment.
Our Mental Health Employment Specialist worked closely with him over a period of 6 weeks focusing on his strengths, whilst gaining an understanding of his aspirations, motivations and skills. Understanding the challenges Alan had experienced whilst living with his mental health condition was critical to finding employment that would support Alan to thrive. Following these one-to-one sessions, Alan came to realise that a job outdoors, as part of a small team, would suit him best. Together they crafted a C.V. highlighting his relevant skills and experiences. Prior to interviews, Alan’s anxieties increased and the Mental Health Employment Specialist worked closely with him to build his confidence, practicing answering common questions and rehearsing how to express his experiences to highlight his passion for working outdoors.
With the tailored support Into Work provided, Alan secured a part-time position as a gardener at a local community project and is flourishing. With renewed self-belief, he is already looking at additional work in other areas of the gardening industry, eager to see future roles and careers that he can embrace. Alan hasn’t just found work, he’s found pride and purpose once again.
– Alan (referred to Into Work service)
"When I first spoke to someone from Into Work, I felt nervous and thought how will they help me? Am I just another tick box. But instantly I was impressed at how understanding the advisor was, I felt at ease talking about things. I walked out of my first appointment feeling like I had a plan in place and I felt supported. Into Work has really helped build my confidence which has helped with my social anxiety. I am now in work that I love. I wake up every morning and feel positive about the day ahead."
1: Employment and Mental Health Paper – Royal College of Psychiatrists
2: Employment and Income Spotlight – Office for Health Improvements and Disparities
3: The influence of re-employment on quality of life and self-rated health, a longitudinal study among unemployed persons. BMC Public Health, vol 13, p 503. [Carlier BE, Schuring M, Lotters FJ, Bakker B. Borgers N, Burdorf A (2013).]
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