- Schizophrenia and work: What kind of work can I do?
- 8 Best Careers to Help People with Mental Illness
- YouTube Special Feature
- Facts & Statistics
- About The Career
- 1. Mental Health Counselor
- 2. School and Career Counselor
- 3. Child and Family Social Worker
- 4. Clinical Social Worker
- 5. School Social Worker
- 6. Healthcare Social Worker
- 7. Geriatric Social Worker
- 8. Rehabilitation Counselor
- Employment services for people with schizophrenia
- Schizophrenia and Employment
- Schizophrenia stops me getting a job, says Anglesey woman
- ‘Treatable illness’
- ‘I’m lucky’
Schizophrenia and work: What kind of work can I do?
What Sort of Work Can People With Schizophrenia Do?
After you have experienced a period of schizophrenia, particularly a prolonged one, it is often difficult to get into work. One of the biggest hurdles facing people in this position is knowing where to start. Many people who have suffered from schizophrenia have little or no experience of work and do not know what sort of work they can do. Answering the question “What sort of work could I do?” is the starting point on your journey back into the mainstream.
For people who have worked before it is not such a huge issue as they have a better perception of their strengths and skills in the workplace. However it may be that you don’t feel able to go back to your old job or perhaps you have never worked. In both cases it may be really difficult to know what sort of work you could manage or better still work that you could do really well at.
In general people who have worked before their schizophrenic illness began will find it easier to find a job and will find it easier to cope with work than those who have never worked.2
You may not be able to develop a clear idea of what sort of job best suits you until you have spent a lot of time job-searching or even tried some work experience but it is a good idea to have some ideas before you begin your job-search and this involves taking a long hard look at your personal qualities.
If you have never worked before it may be quite difficult to envisage different types of work. Similarly if you have worked before but don’t feel that you want to return to your old trade then you will need to think hard about other things you could do. Fortunately it needn’t be just a shot in the dark. There are ways of trying out jobs before you commit to paid employment. Work experience is one very good way and voluntary work for a charity is another.
If you are physically fit and enjoy the outdoors work in a park or on a farm may be for you. (Image: )
Your personal qualities
But before you get to that stage it is a good idea to take an in depth look at your own personal qualities such as your strengths, your weaknesses and your abilities to get an idea of what sort of work would suit you. For instance if you have an eye for detail and are good at managing your own finances then you may do well in financial administration, say working for an accountant or an insurance company. Are you physically fit and enjoy the outdoors then a job looking after a park or in farming might be good for you?
At this stage it is a good idea to start to put your thoughts down on paper. Make two lists: what you are good at and what you enjoy doing then look to see if there are any overlapping areas between your lists. Don’t just rely on your own thoughts and ideas, ask people close to you what they think you are good at as well.
How your schizophrenia will affect you at work
However it is also important to be realistic about how your schizophrenia will affect your ambitions to work so alongside your first two lists write another list of ways in which your condition will affect your working life. Some of these will be quite obvious. For instance if your body clock has been affected and you like to stay up all night and sleep during the day then a job on a night shift might suit you. Or maybe you find it difficult to get up in the morning in which case a part time or shift work job that allows you to start later may be best.
People with schizophrenia who have difficulty with their body clocks often find work on a night shift to be the answer. (Image: )
Many people who have suffered from schizophrenia find that they are not able to do as much as they used to and need to spend more time relaxing and re-charging their batteries. In this case it is better to look for a job that does not require very much overtime working or needs the worker to achieve set targets. Jobs with flexi-time working are also useful as they help you to cope with those “bad days” when you need to be able to start a bit later than normal or leave a bit earlier from work.
Remember that job satisfaction is very important. It is important not to be over-ambitious but to choose a job that you can expect to do quite well in so that you can get a sense of fulfilment and achievement from your day’s work. A job in which you are constantly struggling to keep up will not give you any job satisfaction and will only add to your stress levels.
Your previous work experience and qualifications
Finally draw up a list of your educational and vocational qualifications and any previous experience in work that you have. You should include here any experience you have gained from voluntary work, studying or from hobbies and pastimes. For instance if you are a keen gardener in your spare time then that may be an important skill for you when you come to look for work.
You should also ask if there are any external factors that will affect you. For instance how far will you be able to travel to work or do you have any family commitments such as children that will affect the picture?
Getting an idea of what sort of work you can do
At this point you should start to build up a picture of what sort of work will suit you. Just to recap, here’s what you need to know about yourself:
1. What sort of things do you enjoy doing?
2. What sort of things are you good at?
3. How will your illness limit your ambitions?
4. What previous experience in work do you have?
5. What qualifications do you have?
6. External factors such as travel to work and family commitments?
By drawing these factors together you should now be able to draw some definite conclusions about the sorts of work that will suit you.
Try to be as realistic as possible. We would all like to have glamorous careers as celebrities and earn bucketfuls of cash but the reality for most people is a modest job doing something they are good at and enjoy, and bringing home enough money to provide a comfortable existence for them and their family.
Vocational training courses in areas like construction and engineering are available in most areas. (Image: )
Improving your prospects for getting into work
You have now completed the first step to finding out what sort of work you could do. The next step is to ask if any of your existing abilities could be improved to make you better suited to getting the sort job that you would like. For instance if you have poor literacy or numeracy skills then that would be a serious drawback and something that you will need to work hard on.
If you want to move into a particular area of work, you may be able to find vocational training courses in your area available at a reduced rate or free for people on benefits. To find these courses you will need to ask at the Jobcentre or local library or search on the web. If you can’t find a free course then you may be able to get help with your fees from a charity.
A first aid at work course like those run by the Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance will be valued by most employers (Photo: Andrey_Popov on )
Some courses are good to have in any job: first aid at work or computer skills for instance are always valued by employers. Have a look at our information sheet on sources of help for job-searching for more information.
At this point it is important to say something about computers. Like them or loathe them, computers are an important part of modern life. You will have a better chance of finding a paying job if you have good computer skills, so if you are not very computer literate at the moment, a course in IT skills would be a good place to start your job-searching process.
Remember that today’s job market is very competitive and you will be up against other candidates who may have good qualifications so any way that you can enhance your qualifications now will pay dividends in the long run.
What sort of jobs are available?
The reference library is a great source of advice and information about the local jobs market. (Image: )
The next step is to try to marry up what you now know about your own aptitude for work with knowledge of the sorts of jobs that are available in the local area. This means researching the local job market. There are a number of sources that you can use for this such as the Jobcentre Plus website (https://www.gov.uk/jobsearch), on line job boards such as Totaljobs.com (http://www.totaljobs.com/) or CV library (http://www.cv-library.co.uk/) or by visiting the local library and looking in the local press.
The aim of your research at this stage should be to get a general impression of the sorts of job openings that are available in your area rather than to look for specific vacancies although if you do spot something that looks up your street then don’t pass up the opportunity; apply for it. For instance if there are a lot of service industries then there may be good openings for administrators whereas in a more rural area there may be more farming jobs available.
For most people living with schizophrenia, getting into work after a long period on sickness benefits is one of the biggest challenges they will face. It isn’t easy. So it is absolutely vital to understand your own particular aptitude for work by looking at your personal qualities and researching the job market before you start your job-searching. The old saying “Know thyself” is nowhere more important than when starting out on a new career.
1. This information sheet is based on the author’s personal experiences.
2. Fuller Torrey E, 2001, Surviving Schizophrenia, Quill, P264.
1. Ultimate Job Search, Lynn Williams, Kogan Page
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8 Best Careers to Help People with Mental Illness
There are many possible career directions in mental health. Generally a mental health career involves counseling patients in order to provide them with the highest level of mental health possible.
YouTube Special Feature
This is the first in a series of programs produced to encourage a better understanding of mental illness. Often using schizophrenia as an example, this program explores what we now know may be some of the causes of mental illness, the latest treatments, and the future of care for the mentally ill.
Facts & Statistics
First some facts about mental illness in America and why careers in this field are in such demand. Nami.org states:
- One in four adults−approximately 61.5 million Americans−experiences mental illness in a given year. One in 17−about 13.6 million−live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
- Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.
- Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year
- Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. 19
- Adults living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than other Americans, largely due to treatable medical conditions
About The Career
Mental health professionals work with people of all ages, and help patients work through many stresses and problems of life. Some of the most common problems they assist with include:
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Mental health problems related to aging
- Parenting and marital issues
- Anger and depression
Many mental health practitioners have advanced degrees in psychology and other fields.
There are many excellent career paths to assist people with mental illness, and these include the following:
1. Mental Health Counselor
This type of mental health professional assists people in managing a variety of emotional and mental disorders. This job requires that you listen carefully to the person and to ask insightful questions. In this process, you will help the patient to have a better understanding of their mental health issues and to devise better strategies to improve their emotional and mental well being.
Working in this profession usually requires you to earn a master’s degree in psychology. The median pay according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in this field is $41,000.
2. School and Career Counselor
A school and career counselor helps young people to develop social and emotional skills so that they can succeed in school and in life generally. A professional in this environment will help the student to have a better understanding of social, emotional and behavior problems he or she may be having. This can be done through both individual and group counseling.
You may need to work closely with parents in some situations so that you can best address any mental health or behavioral issues.
In this profession, you may work either at the elementary, middle or high school level.
Many in this field often work for public schools, so the median pay often is higher – $53,600 according to BLS.
3. Child and Family Social Worker
A child and family social worker helps children and families to deal with emotional, mental and situational problems in their lives.
As a social worker, you will help children and families to cope with the many challenges in their lives. This can be due to many factors, such as a mental health problem, but just as often a highly stressful situation, such as the death of a child or sibling. You may also work with people who have serious physical problems and addictions.
Median pay for all social workers is $44,200, and people with a master’s degree or PhD can earn up to $72,000.
4. Clinical Social Worker
A clinical social worker may also be referred to as a licensed clinical social worker. This type of social worker diagnoses and treats many types of mental, behavioral and emotional issues. Some of these may include anxiety and depression. This type of social worker may provide group, family and couples therapy. Whoever they are working with at a given time, they will attempt to provide their clients with the skills and strategies they need to deal with mental health issues.
5. School Social Worker
A school social worker will work closely with teachers, parents and school administrators to come up with strategies and plans to boost the academic record and social development of students. This type of social worker will work with the child or young adult to deal with many types of behavioral problems, including bullying and aggressive behavior.
6. Healthcare Social Worker
This type of social worker works with healthcare patients in an attempt to make them deal better with their physical or mental diagnosis. In this profession, you will help a person to make a smoother transition back to their community or home. You also may provide your patients with information on support groups and home health care that will help him or her to better manage their mental or physical illness.
7. Geriatric Social Worker
This type of social worker professional will help senior citizens and their families to handle a variety of mental and physical disorders that afflict older people. They may help the patient and the family to locate essential services, and possibly to provide the client with home health care and meals. A geriatric social worker may provide helpful information about assisted living centers, and possibly work with seniors in those settings.
8. Rehabilitation Counselor
A rehabilitation counselor helps someone with emotional and/or physical disabilities to live as independently as possible. You may work with clients to help them to overcome or manage personal, social and professional issues that they may have due to their disability.
You will need to work with people of all ages and of all mental and physical abilities in many stages of their lives. You may work with a younger person to help her to live with a mental or physical disability, or with a veteran who most cope with a mental health disorder.
The median wage in this field according to BLS is $33,880. If you work for state government, the median wage is $43,500.
For more about Mental Illness visit these great resources:
Employment services for people with 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.
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.
Schizophrenia and Employment
Having a job can provide a host of benefits for a person with schizophrenia. However, if symptoms aren’t well-controlled, the stress of being in a workplace has the potential to make the condition worse. How people with schizophrenia approach job hunting and managing their health can make all the difference.
Benefits and Challenges of Working With Schizophrenia
“Working hard, receiving a paycheck, and being able to support themselves can improve quality of life and reduce the risk of suicide for people with schizophrenia,” says Andrew Savageau, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and an attending psychiatrist at the OSU Wexner Medical Center. The routine and daily schedule associated with working outside the home can help reduce the effects of schizophrenia symptoms, and the stimulation of daily challenges may reduce the rate of decline of cognitive functioning associated with schizophrenia.
The main challenge that people with schizophrenia face with working is that symptoms can hinder efforts to have a career. Working with other people, for instance, can create stress or uncomfortable situations, and social interactions can be difficult, Dr. Savageau says. A 2011 Vanderbilt University study showed that people with schizophrenia have impairments in the area of the brain involved in the perception of social stimuli that may make it difficult to recognize and properly respond to social cues.
The need to focus and maintain attention for prolonged periods of time can also be challenging for people with schizophrenia, Savageau says. Symptoms such as delirium and disorganized thinking can affect the ability to stay focused on tasks, according to a study in The European Journal of Psychiatry in 2012.
Tools for Success on the Job With Schizophrenia
“Finding, keeping, and excelling at work for a person with schizophrenia is best achieved through symptom management,” Savageau says. That means sticking with the medication regimen and therapy sessions.
Another tool for success on the job with schizophrenia is vocational rehabilitation and assistance services. “These services can help a person with schizophrenia write a résumé, submit job applications, and learn job interview techniques,” Savageau says. “Some programs may offer supported employment as well.” Supported employment is a type of therapy in which a team of professionals offers job training and ongoing support to help people with schizophrenia find meaningful work.
The types of jobs people with schizophrenia choose should be based on their personal skill sets and ability to function in the work environment. Many people with a mental illness try more than one job before finding the right fit for their capabilities and preferences.
Once hired, a person with schizophrenia should ensure that he or she can meet all the requirements and expectations of the job. Steps to take to help increase his or her potential for success in the workplace include:
- Sticking with the treatment plan so that symptoms are managed as well as possible.
- Maintaining a regular routine.
- Keeping to a set sleep schedule to ensure adequate rest.
- Being alert to emerging symptoms or worsening cognitive function and taking prompt action if any changes occur.
Disclosing a Schizophrenia Diagnosis at Work
“Whether or not a person discloses his or her diagnosis of schizophrenia to an employer is a decision that must be made by the individual on a case-by-case basis,” Savageau says. “The employer has no legal right to know if a diagnosis exists, but some employers may be willing to make special arrangements to fit the circumstances if they’re aware of such a diagnosis.”
People who disclose a mental illness and feel they’re being discriminated against can file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to the agency’s guidelines, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability unless the employer would experience a significant hardship by doing so.
How Caregivers Can Help
Caregivers also can help with job efforts, Savageau says, by encouraging their loved ones with schizophrenia to follow their treatment regimens, supporting them as they set and strive to achieve workplace goals, and showing empathy as they struggle with a serious mental illness that challenges their ability to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not, both at home and at work.
Schizophrenia stops me getting a job, says Anglesey woman
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionSiobhan Davies said work is as important as swallowing a pill for people with schizophrenia
A woman who has schizophrenia says that myths surrounding the condition have affected her chances of getting a job.
“I want to work, I want to give back to society,” said Siobhan Davies, from Anglesey. “With schizophrenia I think there is still an element of fear.”
Mental health charity Hafal said figures showed only 8% of people with schizophrenia were in work, even though 90% wanted to have a job.
It said more awareness of the “misunderstood” condition was needed.
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Ms Davies, a 45-year-old mother-of-four from Rhosneigr, said: “I want to be a part of the working world, but there are so many hurdles to overcome, and the biggest one is that I’ve been in care for seven years, and potential employers immediately ask themselves is she going to go back?”
She said she started hearing voices when she was 16 and that all the characters in her head – which she hears constantly – have names and personalities.
“A lot of people are talking about depression and anxiety, even personality disorders, which is fantastic, there is a need for that to happen, but with schizophrenia I think there is still an element of fear there,” Ms Davies told the Newyddion 9 programme.
“The media doesn’t help, it shows schizophrenics as psychotic killers, or what happens when they stop taking their meds?
“All this fear-mongering basically. And, it’s actually a lot more common than you realise. One in every 100 will develop schizophrenia in their life.
“So there’s a real need for people to speak out more openly about it, to get people to understand the mechanics of the illness, how it affects people, and more importantly how they can help, because being accepted into a social situation, being accepted to a community and actually being a part of that community is a huge part of dealing with the condition.”
Nicola Thomas, Hafal’s director of public and corporate affairs, said while attitudes to mental health had changed considerably in recent years, there remained a stigma around schizophrenia.
“Serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are still misunderstood by many, and this can make it more difficult for people with schizophrenia to get back into work,” she said.
“The fact is that schizophrenia is a very treatable illness. Many Hafal clients with schizophrenia have successfully worked towards recovery and achieved key employment and education goals.”
She said the charity’s recent Big Lottery-funded initiative, “Short Steps”, saw hundreds of people with a serious mental illness re-enter work, which had a drastic effect on their quality of life.
It is also working with peer mentoring service Cyfle Cymru to help people get the skills needed to go back to work.
A recent survey of 1,500 people by the Rethink Mental Illness campaign suggested the condition is widely misunderstood.
One in 100 people is affected by schizophrenia during their life, but 45% of those surveyed thought the illness was much more common.
Half mistakenly thought the illness was defined by a split personality and a quarter believed it definitely led to violent behaviour. But the reality is very different, the charity claims.
Ms Davies said despite this, she is looking forward to the future with hope.
She is currently looking for volunteering work and is having help building up her CV.
“I see the future as something I can live for now, for a long time I did not, but my life is moving forward,” she added.
“I’m a very lucky person. I have lots of very good friends and very strong family, who couldn’t be more supportive and that makes a huge difference.”