People living with mental illness are a diverse group with a wide range of talents, who can-and do-work in all segments of the U.S. economy. But they still often have problems in finding and keeping jobs. Each year one in four people in the United States is affected by mental illness. But even though it is common, mental illness still carries a stigma, and those living with it often face discrimination.

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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Employment and Mental Illness: Steps along the Road to Recovery

Sep 20, 2014

People living with mental illness are a diverse group with a wide range of talents, who can—and do—work in all segments of the U.S. economy. But they still often have problems in finding and keeping jobs. Each year one in four people in the United States is affected by mental illness. But even though it is common, mental illness still carries a stigma, and those living with it often face discrimination.

Work can be an important part of recovery. Work can provide a structure, a sense of purpose, income and benefits. Despite this, people with mental illness are often unemployed or underemployed.  Almost 80 percent of the 7 million individuals in the public mental health system are unemployed, though studies show that at least 60 percent of them want to work.

The good news is that we know there are effective and innovative systems that have helped people with mental illness find and keep competitive employment. The bad news is that these systems are not widely available. Supported employment services are available to less than 2 percent of the people who need them.

In July, NAMI released Road to Recovery: Employment and Mental Illness, a report that explored these challenges and highlighted effective employment programs: 

  • Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment is a system that focuses on rapid placement in competitive employment and in jobs that match an individual’s talents and interests. IPS has a strong evidence base shown to significantly improve the opportunities for people with mental illness to find and keep employment.
  • Clubhouses are community centers open to anyone with a mental illness. Clubhouses offer a variety of employment services, including transitional employment and independent employment programs. Both have been proven through research to help improve opportunities to find and keep jobs.
  • Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is a team-based system that provides intensive support services to people with serious mental illness in the community whenever and wherever they are needed 24/7. Every ACT team should include a vocational specialist. ACT also has a proven track record of helping people find and keep jobs.

NAMI has created online resources for more information on these supported employment programs. You can also check out the webinar that NAMI hosted on IPS Supported Employment, with leading experts discussing why IPS Supported Employment is so effective.

Our nation must invest in effective supported employment programs. In doing so, we invest in real people, in real solutions, and real strategies that lead to recovery. Many people with a mental illness have achieved financial independence with the help of Social Security’s Ticket to Work and Work Incentives. Social Security disability beneficiaries age 18 through 64 qualify for this free and voluntary program. Call 1-866-968-7842(V) 866-833-2967(TTY) M - F 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM EST to get started today!