June 14, 2005

Working with Schizophrenia

Breaking down the barriers to work

A new article discusses the unemployment levels of people with mental disorders. According to the article, the "unemployment levels for people with mental illnesses are as much as 10 times the official general population levels." Further, a study out of Australia found that "...the proportion of Australians with schizophrenia in paid jobs is about 14 per cent." Though, this information is focused on specifically on Australia, unemployment is a disconcerting issue for psychiatrically disabled people all over the world.

According to one American academic, many people with mental disorders want to work. They want to be able to have "a job, a home, a family, just like everyone else, says psychologist Professor Gary Bond. A job would give them the chance to take financial control of their future." Professor Bond states,"Employment is vital for (people with mental disorders). It places them in the real world. It is an essential element in the recovery process. When they are working they have higher self-esteem, better control of symptoms and are more connected to community."

As a result, Professor Bond has proposed "the American-supported employment model as the most effective approach." He claims that "12 experimental studies (...) have looked at this model and all (...) have show(n) a rate of employment of about 60 per cent, compared with only about 20 percent for other programs."

Professor Bond's program consists of seven principles: (1)If you want to work, you are eligible;(2)Employment specialists work closely with the client's health team;(3)Competitive employment with at least the minimum wage - not a temporary or shelter job;(4)Rapid job search while the client's motivation is high; (5)Jobs are matched to abilities, preferences and strengths; (6)Individual long-term support plan - employment team, family, friends to help with problem-solving and employer liaison; and (7)Benefits counselling. The main fear that prevents Americans from working is that they will be unable to regain their benefits if needed.

Professor Bond says the goal of mental health services should be to help people recover, not keep them taking medication. He says "some clinicians maintain that work will be too stressful, but try unemployment even without mental illness with its isolation and demoralisation."

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To learn more about Professor Gary Bond:


I have always worked, and do so now, but it has definitely been a huge struggle. Instead of repeating my history with scizophrenia here, I would simply refer anyone interested to my post on the Prolixin thread, spelled prolixen on the thread title. Suffice to say that after my initial, completely debilitating episode in 1975 I went through similiarly devastating episodes of psychosis at two year intervals until the mid 80's when I learned to catch my symptoms early enough that I was aware that I was becoming sick, and could go and voluntarily get prolixin shots. I became adept at that by the 80's.
My own subjective observation on why it is difficult for schizophrenics to voluntarily get treatment and realize they are sick is that the disease is insiduous in its initial onslaught. It starts out slowly with thought process disorder, and only after years of experience was I able to recognize these early symptoms and go get a prolixin shot before becoming lost in what I call the "Schizophrenic Daze." From a slow process of thought disorder, inability to focus, inability to pay attention, wandering thought processes, one slips into full blown psychosis in a matter of a few days after the initial symptoms appear. At that point one is incapable of realizing one is even sick. This is a major problem with getting schizophrenics lost in the daze to go get or take their meds. I learned to go get my prolixin early by the 80's, and kept my time actually psychotic and dysfunctional to a period of a week or two. Still many employers simply fired me anyway, while a very few were very understanding. So, it is extremely difficult for the chronic psychotic to remain employed, and I have had a grim struggle over the years doing so.

Posted by: Gilthoron at June 26, 2005 02:25 PM

I have been able to keep a 30 hour a week job for two years while going to college. However,
I was only paid $5.50 an hour and received no raise because if I received a raise my Boss would not get as manny hours out of me. Of course some people would like to see me work for this kind of money and come off of dissability. They just don't understand that the mentally ill can not stand the stress of two or three jobs and have more bills than other workers. Not too many people in this wonderfull Country could live off of 40 hours a week at minimum wage. Treated mentally ill people can't either. I would only be able to pay for the medication that enables me to work 40 hours a week with this kind of money each month.

Posted by: Larry at April 26, 2006 06:09 PM

I was diagnosed in 1999, and a year later I acquired the job which I've held for the past seven years building custom musical instrument cases. I have been to the hospital twice in that time, and my employer has been kind enough to keep me on. Actually, I've become rather expensive to replace. I make 13.20 an hour, and cover my meds through blue cross. I could not contemplate living without purpose on the $900 or so that our provincial government provides, although I know a couple of schizophrenics who don't seem to mind it. I would love to know what statistics are available regarding schizophrenics in North America who work, and their stories and experiences.

Posted by: Morley at June 13, 2006 08:43 PM

I have been on medication for Schizophrenia for more than 7 years now, and you may say I am already a regular on the story of Schizophrenia and the ability to finish/or do work. I would really like to get a job at home. At home I feel more at ease and can have a rest anytime. I tried 1 job, just 1, but I see that a work environment is not really suited for me... specially in my not yet so realizing environment.

Posted by: Jonathan at July 7, 2006 05:18 AM

I agree with most of Professor Bond's ideas as discussed in this article. However, I disagree with the one that says "Rapid Job Search." When I was between jobs, I did a LOT of volunteer work, trying all sorts of fun things while I worked on a couple personal projects. Over the course of two years I finally found the three (very) part-time paid jobs that I do now, and find that they are well-suited to my interests and abilities. It took patience and interest over a period of time to gain these jobs. And the volunteer work both earned me respect and helped me stay really motivated, both very important. I could never have done a rapid job search and been able to stay in the community that I live in and still gotten jobs that suit me well.

Posted by: Someone at March 28, 2007 08:46 PM

I have lived 10 years under the scizo label, and I get little respect. Reverse discrimination has plagued my life, and it's so easy to go for broke. The government barely keeps me from drowning in a pool of debt. My artwork is not bad, but I haven't sold a piece for years.
I've tried other work, and it didn't work out that well.
When I did work, there were too many deductions from my SSI, so I quit.
Being an artist does cost money, and I have been told that grants may be available, but for the research I do, I have still found nothing.

Posted by: Joey at June 9, 2007 01:31 AM

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