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Of all persons with disabilities, those with a serious mental illness face the highest degree of stigmatization in the workplace, and the greatest barriers to employment. Many and varied employment obstacles face adults with psychiatric disabilities, such as gaps in work history, limited employment experience, lack of confidence, fear and anxiety, workplace discrimination and inflexibility, social stigma and the rigidity of existing income support/benefit programs.
The unemployment rate of persons with serious mental illness reflects these obstacles and has been commonly reported to range from 70-90%, depending on the severity of the disability. These statistics are particularly disturbing in light of the fact that productive work has been identified as a leading component in promoting positive mental health and in paving the way for a rich and fulfilling life in the community.
Access to meaningful, paid work is a basic human right for every citizen, and those who experience serious mental illness should have equal access to the fundamental elements of citizenship which include: housing, education, income and work. This means that each individual has the right to be employed in a mainstream job, rather than being labeled as a client in a training program or a sheltered workshop.
In this section, you will find information and resources on how to find and retain employment if you are struggling with a mental illness.

Action Steps to Real Work

This document is organized according to three different target groups: employers, mental health service providers and consumers of mental health services. It is hoped that the strategies suggested will provide steps for each of these groups to take so that, when working together, they will maximize the possibilities for successful employment.

Hangin' in There: Strategies for Job Retention by Persons with a Psychiatric Disability

This booklet is written primarily for people with psychiatric disabilities and it reflects their personal view points on the subject of job retention.

Making It Work Guide

This guide highlights and describes various “return-to-work” strategies and provides practical tips for implementing them most effectively. It has been designed as a practical resource tool for mental health providers/ program planners, vocational rehabilitation counselors, occupational therapists or anyone else, whether on a personal or professional level, who is involved in supporting consumers to find and keep meaningful work and overcome their barriers to employment.

Mental Health Works

Mental Health Works helps organizations to manage their duty to accommodate employees experiencing mental disabilities such as depression or anxiety in the workplace. In many cases, employers are so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, that they say nothing. This can lead to decreased productivity, lower morale, and conflict in the work environment. We help employers respond immediately and appropriately when employees experience mental health problems and effectively manage performance and productivity issues. It is founded on the belief that focusing on solutions around mental health issues in the workplace will benefit employers and employees alike.

Steps to Employment: A Workbook for People Who Have Experienced Mental Health Problems

This workbook is meant to help individuals with mental health problems build self-confidence and create ideas on how to find a job. The exercises in this manual are designed to help identify strengths and expectations about work/life balance. These exercises are also beneficial for those in a support group and job skill building sessions.

Strategies For Success: A Consumer‘s Guide to the Workplace

This resource guide developed for the Access to Real Work project of the Canadian Mental Health Association – National office. It includes two sections; the first on Hints on Employment providing guidelines for new employees and what to expect, and the second on Workplace Accommodations. The information comes from career counsellors and the personal experiences of consumers.

Working Well: An Employer's Guide to Hiring and Retaining People with Mental Illnesses

This guide is designed for employers concerned about retaining employees with a mental illness, and those actively seeking to hire people with a psychiatric disability. It outlines principles and practical strategies useful to small businesses and corporations, the private sector as well as government services.