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Back to work
The links between employment and mental health are well known. Getting people into work can improve people’s self-esteem, as well as a means of a better income, but it may involve pressures on people whose coping strength may be affected by mental health problems. Sally Beck described these links in her blog on this website earlier this month ‘Managing stress at work’. An OECD report last year highlighted how mental ill-health was among the biggest reasons for sickness absence from work.
There was a very interesting debate in the House of Commons last month on this topic, which highlighted some less well publicised ideas about how to improve prospects of employment for people with mental health problems. Here’s some of the issues raised in this debate:
- Some mental health conditions, rather than being a problem for employers, were actually very useful to businesses, such as the technical detail applied by some people with some forms of autism, or the creative abilities shown by some people with bi-polar disorder.
- That a policy of welfare to work, getting people back into work after a period of sickness, needs to be tailored to fit the needs of people with mental health problems. In fact there is a lot of evidence from some areas of the country of programmes that are tailored closely to the needs of individuals that improve their prospects of getting back into work and staying in work. Bureaucracy associated with getting people back to work from being long-term sick can be a real hindrance and prevent a transition back into open employment.
- We often see job adverts stating the employer is for example, disabled friendly. Why not encourage employers to state they are ‘mental-health friendly’? The Government’s Disability Confident campaign includes a lot of material that helps promote the benefits and support available for employers in employing people with disabilities, including people suffering mental ill-health.
- Employment support agencies should have stronger links with mental health teams. The health and well-being benefits of getting back into paid work should be an indicator of health outcomes.
Getting more information
The QCS Service User Guide promotes the idea of exploring employment opportunities policies. To get some more information about the barriers to employment and ways of overcoming these, there’s a useful report by MIND called ‘Let’s get back to work’ published at the end of last year, which includes some powerful case examples. You can find this report here.
David Beckingham – QCS Expert Mental Health Contributor