For many of us, our jobs are what define us. They give us purpose, social connection, and the financial independence that allow us to live full lives. It is no different for people with mental illness. Indeed, the benefits that work can give are vital in supporting a stable recovery. Most people with mental illness want to work and can make important contributions to the workforce if they are properly supported. More funding is needed for transitional programs and specialized employment services as well as financial assistance for employers interested in building healthy and inclusive communities. These services need to target people whose mental illness has made it difficult for them to enter the workforce, who are in and out of work because of episodic illness, or who wish to return to work after a lengthy illness.
Employment services provide purpose and dignity
Employment gives Matt purpose and dignity
A year and a half ago, Matt was struggling to find and keep a job. Today—thanks to the experience he has gained from Coast Mental Health’s Transitional Employment Program (TEP)— he is weighing his options.
How Government Helps
Government employment services often include quantitative requirements from participants as part of helping people find jobs, explore career options, and improve their skills. This type of business model creates barriers for people with mental illness, as it lacks the flexibility needed to respond to their challenges. Many people in the mental health community struggle to find regular work for this reason. Government needs to invest in non-profit programs that support rehabilitation, training, and employment for people who live with these challenges. This way, clients can receive the training and the mental health services they need to gain job-ready skills while managing their mental health.
Transitional Employment Program (TEP)
People in recovery are not always ready to return to full-time work and may need flexibility from their employer. Coast Mental Health offers a Transitional Employment Program (TEP), which offers temporary paid-work contracts in entry-level positions. These allow clients to try various jobs in a supportive environment without the stress of interviews, being trained by strangers, or losing a job because of health-related absenteeism. The goal is for clients to re-enter the competitive workforce with support from Coast Mental Health’s certified employment counsellors.
Our counsellors also assist with other skills to prepare clients for work. These include resume building and interviewing skills, grooming, and navigating transit routes. Flexible employment opportunities promote purpose; they can also lift people with mental illness out of poverty and restore a sense of dignity and belonging. We see this every day: clients enter TEP or another of Coast Mental Health’s employment programs apprehensively only to emerge as recognized and beloved caretakers of the community. This can be extremely conducive to their recovery.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Coast Mental Health has taken the opportunity to reflect on its employment services and ways to expand these and better integrate them with our other services. We have emerged stronger and social enterprises like our landscaping program are now more of a continuum of opportunity for our clients rather than running as a separate business.
Our hope is to be able to offer more people with mental illness these opportunities, for other non-profit providers to create similar employment services, and for compassionate employers to be offered incentives to provide jobs to people in recovery from their illness.
With your support, we can do more. Say #yesinmybackyard and help #fundmentalhealth.