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Cutting the dash: experiences of mental health and employment

Arthur, Belinda and Knifton, Lee and Park, Margaret and Docherty, Ellen (2008) Cutting the dash: experiences of mental health and employment. Journal of Public Mental Health, 7 (4). pp. 51-59. ISSN 1746-5729

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Abstract

People who have used mental health services in Scotland have the lowest employment rates of all working ages, despite a national programme for mental health and well-being that provides significant investment in anti-stigma initiatives and employment support services. This paper qualitatively identifies barriers to employment from the perspectives of people who have experienced mental health issues by conducting in-depth focus groups with 20 people who have experienced mental health issues undertaken through collaborative research involving people who have experienced mental health issues alongside practitioners and academics. Researchers who have experienced mental health issues instigated and determined the direction, execution and dissemination of the study. The findings add to the growing evidence base outlining the complex and interlinked barriers to employment which include previous experience of workplace discrimination, financial uncertainty, disclosure concerns, quality of jobs available and the potential of work at times to worsen mental health conditions. Despite this, most participants expressed hopefulness and resilience. Many wanted paid work and outlined practical steps that employers can take in terms of recruitment and retention. However, participants also stressed the equal importance of voluntary work and not just as a step to paid employment. A multiple-perspectives approach provides important insights into the complex and sensitive policy area of mental health and employment. Meaningful involvement of people who have used mental health services should be a central aspect of further research that aims to understand and address these barriers. This study has shaped the development of a national service user research consortium in Scotland.