People have the innate desire to feel purposeful and productive. One way that many people feel like they have purpose is through working or volunteering. Feeling like one is giving back to the community or contributing to society can help keep the body and mind active and create a feeling of well-being.
There is a common misconception that people with mental illness or various physical or mental disabilities cannot or should not work. This misconception leads to underutilizing a valuable resource in our community!
There are many myths surrounding people with disabilities and mental illness in the workforce. Some of these include:
• People with disabilities have higher absenteeism rates
• Employers workers comp insurance rates will increase if they hire a person with a disability
There are programs in place to help the employer as well as the employee with a disability or mental illness.
The Social Security Administration Ticket to Work Program and Vocational Rehabilitation (amongst others) provide incentives to employers to hire people with disabilities. Some incentives provided may include tax breaks or on-the-job training for the employee. Many social service programs that provide on the job training use the Supportive Employment Model.
With this, a “Job Coach” is used to help the employee learn their job and navigate the workforce. An individual may need this extra support because they may be returning to the workforce after a period of unemployment due to their disability or mental illness. The job coach may seem like an extra stress for the employer at first, but they are a resource that can be extremely helpful. The job coach can provide “side-by-side” job training to the employee to help them learn the job. The job coach is also someone that the employer can use to help educate other employees and to break down the barriers and stigma surrounding that individual’s mental illness or disability.
Whether you are a mental health consumer, an employer, or someone just looking to better their mental and emotional wellbeing, there are a few things that you can do to get involved.
• Look for places in the community to volunteer. VolunteerLEON offers a database of volunteer opportunities in our community. No matter how big or small, volunteering is a way to make a difference in someone else’s life.
• Learn what you can do to employ people with disabilities and mental illness. Get in contact with Vocational Rehabilitation, WorkforcePLUS or Apalachee Center to better educate yourself and your staff.
• If you are thinking of returning to the workforce after a period of unemployment due to a disability, reach out to the services offered in the community. Contact WorkforcePLUS or Vocational Rehabilitation to see what they can provide to help you transition back into independent living.
Apalachee Center can be reached at 1-800-342-0774 for Detox, Crisis or inpatient treatment, and 1-866-472-3941 to schedule an outpatient appointment.
Capital Therapy can be reached at (850) 523-3303 for outpatient services such as counseling and psychiatric care.
Emily Grob is the Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist for the FACT Program at Apalachee Center. She received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Florida State University and is currently pursuing licensure as a clinical social worker.
by Emily Grob, MSW, RCSWI
Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist at Apalachee Center