Improving employment opportunities for young people with mental illness

Friday, 23 March 2018

Young Australians with mental health concerns are more likely to be unemployed or not studying than their peers. 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.

There are two key misconceptions that create barriers to employment and education for young people with mental ill-health.

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 workload 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 employment model designed to actively support people with mental ill-health back into employment or education. IPS is gaining traction as a cost-effective and successful practice for long term mental health recovery through gaining and sustaining employment.

Research shows returning to work or school is a core treatment goal for 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.

IPS 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 with mental ill-health who participate in the Individual Placement and Support model experience significantly better employment outcomes than those who do not participate in IPS. Benefits include:

  • Retaining a job for longer
  • Working more hours per week
  • Better salary

The earlier IPS can occur the more beneficial it is for individuals, to reduce potential negative consequences which may result from withdrawal and disengagement.

Individualised support at EPIC

EPIC job seekers receive individualised support at every stage of their education or employment journey. EPIC’s Mental Health Consultants help job seekers to identify and overcome barriers, and provide support to assist with their return to the workforce or education.