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Employment services for people with schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that disrupts the human mind and can alter a person’s sense of reality. It causes intense episodes of psychosis involving delusions, hallucinations and disordered thinking. Other symptoms include lack of motivation, inability to express emotions, and social withdrawal. It can be difficult for people with schizophrenia to identify that they are ill because their delusions and hallucinations seem so real.

While schizophrenia can be a scary and confronting mental illness, that doesn’t mean people with schizophrenia should be feared by the public. Unfortunately, portrayals of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses in the media and movies often show people with schizophrenia as a danger to themselves and others. You may see people with schizophrenia depicted as having a ‘split personality’ or as being overly violent, both of which are untrue. Such representations do not take into account the complexities of schizophrenia and can be damaging to people with schizophrenia.

What we do know is people with schizophrenia have a higher rate of suicide and are more likely to have violence inflicted against them. People with schizophrenia need understanding from the public, not judgement. EPIC is committed to creating a level playing field for people with schizophrenia to fully participate in their communities, and enjoy the many benefits of employment.

Support networks for people with schizophrenia

It is common for people with schizophrenia to feel isolated, and feel that no one understands what they are going through. The reality is, unless the other person also has schizophrenia, it can be very difficult for a person to understand what day-to-day life is like for a person with schizophrenia.

Sometimes people with schizophrenia withdraw socially because they feel that they are a burden to those around them. In some cases, they hear voices telling them that everyone hates them, doesn’t want them around or even want them to die. With constant negative voices telling them things that aren’t true, people with schizophrenia can feel that they don’t deserve help, or don’t deserve to be around other people.

People with schizophrenia may find solace in seeking out stories of other people with schizophrenia online. ABC’s program You Can’t Ask That recently screened an episode featuring people with schizophrenia. It is valuable as both an educational and empathy-building piece, which can help other people with schizophrenia feel less alone and help the general public better understand schizophrenia and other mental illness.

Despite the upheavals associated with schizophrenia, people can start to feel better with some understanding and empathy from those around them. People with schizophrenia may find it effective to provide friends and family with educational material about schizophrenia, so they can better understand the diagnosis. People with schizophrenia may also benefit from joining support groups, and EPIC can help people with schizophrenia find a group that fits their needs.

Managing schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia can take a long time to receive a diagnosis. Generally schizophrenia cannot be diagnosed until a person has experienced a combination of psychosis and other symptoms over a certain period of time. Receiving a diagnosis can be a difficult time for people with schizophrenia as it can be both a blessing and a curse to have a ‘label’.

After a person with schizophrenia has a diagnosis they can figure out what will work for them in managing their schizophrenia. Treatments can include antipsychotic medication, psychologist sessions, support programs or groups, and self-care strategies. Many people with schizophrenia will continue to use a variety of strategies to manage their schizophrenia and stay well throughout their lives. Some of the below tips may be helpful to a person with schizophrenia, and assist on their journey to job-readiness.

Confide in and listen to people who love you

People with schizophrenia will come to realise what their main symptoms and triggers are. Sharing this information with trusted loved ones can help people with schizophrenia avoid a major relapse, and keep them on the path to wellness. It can be easy for people with schizophrenia to blame those around them for what’s happening inside their head, as the illness can tell them their friends and family are against them. Sharing information with loved ones can help people with schizophrenia remember it’s the schizophrenia that’s causing problems, not those around them.

Time helps

It’s a cliché for a reason but the more time that passes, the better things can get for a person with schizophrenia. With time comes experience, and people with schizophrenia will better learn to understand and manage their mental illness over time.

Sleep is key

Sleep is an incredibly important factor in managing schizophrenia. When a person’s sleep pattern is inconsistent, it can wreak havoc on their schizophrenia. It is ideal for people with schizophrenia to establish a consistent sleep pattern and try not to deviate from it wherever possible.

Don’t set your sights on recovery

Many people with schizophrenia and other mental illness find that aiming for total recovery is unachievable, and instead seek to come to a happy place in managing their schizophrenia. The word ‘recovery’ can make people with schizophrenia feel that they are damaged and need fixing. It’s not about recovering, it’s about learning to live in ‘a new normal’ and realise that life’s trajectory does not need to be determined by a person’s schizophrenia.

At EPIC, we understand everyone is different, and people will need different tools and support on their journey to employment. EPIC has a dedicated Mental Health Consultancy, to help our job seekers manage their mental illness. Our Mental Health Consultants have expertise in mental health therapeutic approaches and employment services and are experienced in developing practical skills and strategies for improving mental health.

Support from your employer

Many people with schizophrenia will say the main issue they come up against is society’s perceptions of what it means to have schizophrenia. It’s likely that employers, like the majority of people in society, have been exposed to harmful messaging telling them people with schizophrenia are dangerous. When people with schizophrenia are looking to commence, or return to, the workforce, connecting with EPIC can be a good way to have someone in their corner advocating on their behalf.

EPIC takes the time to ensure a strong match between job seekers with schizophrenia and employers. We don’t want to set anyone up for failure, and always invest time in explaining what support different people with schizophrenia need in the workplace. When employers are educated and understanding about what a person with schizophrenia needs to thrive in the workplace, it’s good for everyone.

Our approach

We help people with schizophrenia find and keep a job they love. We support them throughout their employment journey until our assistance is no longer needed.

We believe that people with schizophrenia are very capable of working, and just need an opportunity to prove themselves. We can help people with schizophrenia that come to EPIC:

  • through Centrelink, where they choose EPIC as their Disability Employment Services provider
  • by self-referring, which means they come straight to us and don’t go to Centrelink first
  • to undertake job preparation activities through School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES) with their NDIS plans if they are a school leaver or school student in Tasmania.

Regardless of how people with schizophrenia access our services, we support them to build work skills and life skills they need to find and keep a job.

When open communication exists between employers, employees and EPIC, there is no reason people with schizophrenia can’t enjoy meaningful and sustainable employment. If you are a person with schizophrenia and you’re ready to integrate work into your life, get in touch with EPIC today. We have offices across the east coast of Australia in QLD, NSW, and TAS.