People with mental illness face barriers in the workplace

People with mental illness are facing a ‘locked door’ of prejudice and misunderstanding from employers. This is keeping them out of the workplace, even when they feel well enough and ready to return to work, according to research by charity Rethink Mental Illness.

While the government has committed to reducing the number of people with mental illness who are unemployed, the new figures show the barriers in the workplace even when people are well enough to work.

The research found that 68% of people who can hire staff would worry someone with severe mental illness wouldn’t fit in with the team and 83% would worry that someone with severe mental illness wouldn’t be able to cope with the demands of the job. It also found that three quarters of people would worry that someone with severe mental illness would need lots of time off.

Only 43% of all people with mental health problems are in employment, compared to 74% of the general population, points out the charity and for some conditions, the employment rate is even lower: eight of people with schizophrenia are currently in work, for example. This is despite the two thirds of people with mental illness who were unemployed saying they wanted to work or are looking for work.

The new survey of 500 people with hiring responsibilities shows over half (54%) of bosses wouldn’t know how to support someone with a severe mental health condition, like schizophrenia, at work.

However, 56% would be more likely to employ someone if they felt better equipped to support them, for example through training.

Brian Dow, spokesperson at Rethink Mental Illness says: “Employing people with mental illness is not as fraught or complex as people seem to think. Often the adjustments people need are easy and don’t cost anything, like flexible working, quiet areas and well-being plans.”

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