In the past, people with mental illness were discouraged from working, but today we understand that work plays a vital role in recovery. Multiple studies have found that employment can promote mental well-being by providing structure, social contact, purpose, identity and activity.

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Ticket to Work logo and The Seal of the United States Social Security Administration
Ticket to Work logo and The Seal of the United States Social Security Administration
Ticket to Work logo and The Seal of the United States Social Security Administration
Access to Employment Support Services for Social Security Disability Beneficiaries Who Want to Work
 
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Mental Illness: On Meaningful Work and Recovery

May 27, 2016

May is Mental Health Month. It is also a time of rebirth and renewal! That’s why this spring’s Ticket to Work News and Views feature focuses on renewing your self-esteem and recovering a sense of control in your life through meaningful work.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 62 million Americans experience mental illness every year, and many havehad setbacks as they seek   effective treatment.   Working at something that is meaningful to you can bring a sense of purpose that will anchor you and make you feel good about yourself. It expands your sense of self-worth by adding to your skills and helping you accomplish personal goals. Meaningful activity, which includes school, volunteer work, part-time work and full-time employment, also allows you to meet new people and connect with others.

In the past, people with mental illness were discouraged from working, but today we understand that work plays a vital role in recovery. Multiple studies, such as those by the World Health Organization or the London School of Economics have found that employment can promote mental well-being by providing structure, social contact, purpose, identity and activity.

Having a mental illness affects people in different ways.  As people recover from a mental illness, they often face challenges in relation to work. Having breaks in your career, feeling unsure of yourself, concerns about disability benefits, or needing to ask for accommodations are obstacles that are, by no means, insurmountable. Some people find that they are able, with minor accommodations, to work in the same way they did before. Others may have to re-enter work gradually.

Internships and Volunteering: On-Ramps to Employment

What comes to mind when you think of a job? Is it working full-time? If that prospect feels daunting, consider other work options that are more suited to your current abilities and stamina, and might be easier to find than full-time work. For example,

  • An internship may offer you an opportunity to gain work experience and skills, connect with others in a field of interest, and transition to permanent employment. Internships provide a low-risk opportunity to explore the fit between your aspirations and workplace expectations.
  • Volunteering offers many of the rewards of work for those who are not ready to start a paying job. It gives you the chance to transition into the workforce by gradually taking on responsibility, learning new skills, interacting with others, and receiving recognition and feedback.

There are people and resources available to help find a path that’s right for you. If you have a mental illness and receive disability benefits from Social Security, you may be eligible for free job support services through the Ticket to Work program. There are also Social Security rules called Work Incentives that make it easier for people with mental illness to receive their disability benefits while transitioning to employment. To learn more:

  • Watch this video. The program supports career development for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries age 18 through 64 who want to work.
  • Register for a WISE Webinar.  If you are interested in learning about the Ticket to Work Program or Work Incentives, attend a free Work Incentive Seminar Event (WISE) webinar. Next month’s webinar, titled Ticket to Work:  Free Employment Support for Young Adults with Disabilities, takes place on June 22nd at 3:00pm Eastern Time.
  • Call the Ticket to Work Help Line. To speak with someone about how this program can help you, call the 1-866-968-7842 (V) or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY). Representatives are standing by Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM ET.

Sources:
NAMI's Employment Report: Road to Recovery: Employment and Mental Illness
Medscape.com
MentalHealthAmerica.net