Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, has reviewed the evidence on how to overcome the low vocational outcomes of young people with mental illness.
The research review, “Vocational Interventions for Young People with Mental Ill-Health” takes into consideration the barriers to employment and education for young people with mental illness, and how these can be overcome.
In 2012 a study found that 79% of young Australians (aged 16-30) with a mental health issue were employed, compare to 90% of their healthy peers.
In 2014, one third of young Aussies aged 16-25, presenting mood disorders to clinical services for the first time were already disengaged from work or study.
The first barrier to break down is the misconceptions of individuals and groups that young people with mental ill-health come into contact with: employers, family and friends.
There are two key misconceptions which impede the progress of young people with mental ill-health towards their employment and educational goals.
Myth 1: People with mental ill-health are unable to work. They are unreliable, inefficient or “risky” employees.
This myth is a common concern for both employers and employees.
Employers may think that a person with mental ill-health is more likely to have sick days, or cannot handle the same work load as other healthy employees.
An employee who has yet to disclose their mental health condition may worry that this is what their employer will think, but cannot know for sure without full disclosure.
It is unfortunate that disclosing a mental health issue to an employer still carries the risk that doing so will lead to unemployment.
This is despite the fact that once disclosed to an employer, they are legally obligated to provide the support their employee needs.
Myth 2: People with mental ill-health should not work. They may relapse, or become hospitalised.
This myth is most commonly held by people who care about the individual with mental ill-health.
They mean well, but their fears are misplaced.
Individual Placement and Support (IPS) and Vocational Recovery
Individual Placement and Support is an evidence-based supported employment model designed to actively support people with mental ill-health back into employment or education.
The research shows that vocational recovery, returning to work or school, was identified as a core treatment goal by young people with mental ill-health.
Returning to work, or school, within 14 months of beginning treatment was found to be a better indicator of long-term recovery than symptomatic recovery (Orygen, p3).
IPS is gaining traction as a cost-effective and successful practice for long term mental health recovery through gaining and sustaining employment.
It has been integrated into mental health services in the United Kingdom, America and New Zealand; and was brought into Australian early intervention services in 2015.
People who have experienced the IPS model of intervention have experienced several benefits compared to treatment as usual, including:
- Retaining a job for longer
- Working more hours per week
- Better salary
People with mental ill-health who are treated with the Individual Placement and Support model experience significantly better employment outcomes than those who do not participate in IPS.
“The earlier this can occur the more beneficial this is for individuals to reduce potential negative consequences which may result from withdrawal and disengagement,” she said.
“Being able to identify barriers and provide support, encouragement and direction to those with mental ill-health to assist with their return to either the workforce or education is the central focus of the EPIC Mental Health Consultants. There are many benefits to obtaining work or returning to work or education after experiencing mental ill-health which can contribute greatly to recovery,” Megan said.