Finding a job can be difficult in and of itself - lack of transportation, proper attire, and an insufficient work history - can all play a role. For those with physical disabilities, it can prove even more difficult. But what about a "disability" one may not see?
Physical disabilities, such as back problems or arthritic knees, are freely discussed in public, but having a mental health disorder comes with a certain stigma. Rarely, if ever, will someone disclose a mental illness such as schizophrenia. To do so could potentially be career ending.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year and approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
There are those who suffer from psychiatric issues every day, yet still function in society and even manage to hold down jobs. Studies have suggested that of 25 chronic physical and mental issues, depression has the most financial impact on employers, even outweighing medical and pharmacy costs for employees.
As one of the State's largest agencies, the Department of Economic Security (DES) serves approximately 2.2 million people a year, with job services being a major component. One of the ways DES can assist those with mental health disorders, particularly those applying for jobs, is by simply trying to understand life from their perspective.
Filling out paperwork, such as a job application, might not seem daunting to most, but to someone with a mental health issue, the task may feel overwhelming. One way DES assists is by treating them with dignity and respect. One area in particular is through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program (VR).
Several DES VR counselors attend workshops to get better insight into the difficulties clients with mental health disorders may have when applying for DES services.
"The hardest thing that people [with mental illness] have to deal with is how they get treated by people who don't," said Denise Beagley, Training and Curricula Development Program Manager with the ASU Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy.
Denise has more than 18 years of experience in the behavioral health, health care and law enforcement fields, and uses her knowledge and experience to educate the community and providers through training.
One such training is the Hearing Voices Workshop that incorporates a simulated experience dealing specifically with schizophrenia, but sheds light on the issues of mental illness, its stigma in society and the difficulties, such as employment, faced by those with mental disorders.
"The impact of this experience provided insights into the challenges facing individuals dealing with psychiatric disabilities," said Rehabilitation Specialist, James Lauderdale. "As a vocational counselor, it helped to reduce fear of individuals [with mental illness] and understand that self-help skills can improve the quality of life."
Rehabilitation Specialist, Michael Morones, said the training gave him better perspective of the daily challenges faced by clients as well as working with vendors to offer the best services to achieve VR goals with clients.
"When I attended the workshop, I was provided with a brief experience of what our clients may be dealing with on a daily basis due to mental health symptoms," said Rehabilitation Services Specialist III, Megan Achterhof. "It helped remind me that essential traits such as patience, understanding, and compassion continue to be necessary when assisting our clients."
The Vocational Rehabilitation program provides a variety of services to persons with disabilities, with the ultimate goal to prepare for, enter into, or retain employment.
VR Counselors are available to serve persons with all types of disabilities. Counselors with specialized training are available to meet the unique needs of the following populations:
- Blind, Visually Impaired and Deaf/Hard of hearing
- Transition Youth
- Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury
- Behavioral Health
For more information on VR services, please visit the Rehabilitation Services page on the DES website for more information.
By Misty Kaufman