Due to the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness, looking for, starting, or returning to work can be stressful.  Fortunately, as the friend or family member of someone who has mental illness, there are a number of ways you can ease their transition to employment.

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Access to Employment Support Services for Social Security Disability Beneficiaries Who Want to Work
 
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Tips for Supporting a Friend or Family Member with Mental Illness during the Transition to Work

May 26, 2016

May is Mental Health Month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness every year.  Due to the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness, looking for, starting, or returning to work can be stressful.  Fortunately, as the friend or family member of someone who has mental illness, there are a number of ways you can ease their transition to employment.

  • Learn about mental illness and your friend or loved one’s condition – While there are numerous perceptions regarding mental illness, learning about your friend or loved one’s diagnosis will give you greater insight and understanding. It will also help dispel any myths common to specific diagnoses and may enable you to offer advice about options for employment and workplace accommodations.
  • Educate yourself about Ticket to Work and Work Incentives – Social Security’s Ticket to Work is a voluntary program that provides free employment support services and resources.   The program is available to people age 18 through 64 who are receiving Social Security benefits due to a disability, including mental illness.  It aims to help participants find and keep a job and to replace cash benefits with earnings from work to the greatest extent possible. Social Security also has special rules called Work Incentives that protect disability beneficiaries’ eligibility for cash payments and/or Medicare or Medicaid as they move toward financial independence.
  • Learn about rights regarding mental health – There are a number of federal laws that protect the rights of people with mental illnesses. In particular, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against someone with a disability at work. It also requires that employers make “reasonable accommodations” for qualified job applicants and employees with disabilities.
  • Remember to support, but don’t take control – While providing support and encouragement to a friend or loved one with mental illness is helpful, it’s important to allow them to make their own decisions regarding employment and other life experiences. Ultimately, it is up to your friend or family member to decide how to achieve their goals.
  • Listen – Listening and being attentive is one of the best ways to show your support. Acknowledge your friend or loved one’s experience, and try not to take things personally.

If  a friend or family member has a mental illness and is ready to work, contact the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 (V) or 866-833-2967 (TTY) M-F 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM ET.  You can also search for providers online using the “Find Help” tool.

For more information about Social Security’s Ticket to Work program, visit www.choosework.net.