Publication Date

1999

Abstract

This paper will address the question, How can professionals in the field of psychiatric vocational rehabilitation and employers improve the economic status of individuals with severe and persistent mental illness? By examining three external factors that inhibit the success of supportive employment programs functioning to address vocational rehabilitation goals of individuals who are challenged by severe and chronic mental illness, the researcher offers a new perspective to professionals in the field as well as managers who wish to give this population truly equal opportunities within the labor market. Since this population consistently struggles with an unemployment rate of between 75 to 95 percent (Baron 1997:315), supportive employment programs provide advocacy within the workplace for the severely mentally ill, in addition to job readiness, skill development and on-the-job training. While funders determine success by the number of individuals who secure and maintain employment for a minimum of three months, the author challenges this by putting forth the notion that integrating people back in the labor market is not enough. In order to be truly successful, we should be pulling people out of poverty. Unfortunately, advocacy aimed at securing an improved quality of life for individuals currently in poverty is not an easy task. This text will also challenge the government's current role in enhancing the lives of the severely mentally ill. The changing labor market, circulating trends in government policies, and prevailing stigma that remains in the workplace are the three obstacles that the author explores and evaluates in this paper. Research methodologies utilized to gather information supporting the conclusions found within this paper were primarily conversations with professionals in the field, brief interviews with area managers, and written documentation (statistics).

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