Mentally disabled persons always looking for work

People affected by mental problems face many challenges in working life. Worse, 90% of those who suffer from serious disorders have no access to employment. This is one of the findings from a recent Canadian study.

Although 90% of Canadians with mental disorders don’t have a job, it’s due to the many prejudices linked with their condition, the study “A workforce in quest of jobs – Employment and income for people affected by serious mental conditions” reveals, conducted by researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health of the University of Toronto and Queen’s in Kingston. According to a report sponsored by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 62.9% of unemployed people suffering from a mental illness and who participated in the study experienced some form of discrimination when trying to find or keep a job. In addition, 89.4% of them reported that they had been the victim of discrimination because of their illness.

Prejudices that cost $50 billion

Most respondents also noted that this stigma and this discrimination were major difficulties in supporting their mental health. Others went further by acknowledging that they have experienced problems in their relationships with employers, such as intimidation, passive aggressive behaviours and conflicts of interest, the study reports. These prejudices that Canadians affected by mental disorders suffer not only block their access to jobs but cost some $50 billion a year to the national economy. Costs relating to income support amount to $28.8 billion a year, while the number of beneficiaries is on the rise.


Another policy of inclusion

There are solutions available to remedy the exclusion of this sector of the population. It's primarily a question of more effective collaboration between the authorities, supervisory organizations and businesses, for implementation of measures for inclusion. On the other hand, support policies need to be changed; the current programs for assisting people with disabilities are not appropriate for people with a mental illness and do not adequately meet their needs. The study thus points out the lack of a sustainable system to promote their vocational integration. They need to return to active life progressively and be provided with personalized support which will help them find a meaningful job. The study recommends that this support for finding a job should be provided as quickly as possible, by supporting the person through the disability program, since time is not on the side of people affected by mental health problems; the longer they stay on the sidelines of working life the more difficult it is for them to reintegrate.

Adequate training

In addition, Canadians suffering from mental disabilities acknowledge that their lack of skills can be a hindrance to their being hired. There is a problem: training relating to skills development for the population affected by mental disabilities is lacking. More than 60% of respondents indicated that one of the five most important types of support was the possibility of furthering their education and receiving training that would allow them to enter or return to the workforce. The authorities have a duty to address this lack. The study proposes setting up courses in recognized universities, colleges and Canadian institutions. Ongoing programs in psychosocial rehabilitation should also be considered.

More flexibility and resources

Since their ability to work tends to be periodic, people with mental illnesses must be able to benefit from more flexibility, forgiveness and openness when they return to work. This is especially true given that 90% of respondents say they have worked intermittently in the last ten years, with long interruptions between two jobs for 66.7% of them or short for 22.6%. Furthermore, 78.2% of those interviewed have been unemployed for two years or more since 2001. The average duration of the longest absences from the workplace was 3.9 years. Ranking second to last of OECD countries for compensation of disabled persons, Canada must provide do more financially. An increase in income exemption ceilings and earnings support allowances more in line with the cost of living must be applied. Allowances for transport, childcare and even clothing could be proposed to sustain returning to work for these Canadians excluded from the labour market.

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