80% of Mentally Ill Are Jobless

July 10, 2014  |  Partners

In early July, NAMI released a report called “Road to Recovery: Employment and Mental Illness” which revealed that 80 percent of people who are diagnosed with a mental illness are jobless. “It’s sad that over 80 percent of people diagnosed with mental illness don’t have work. It’s discriminatory,” said Terry Russell, executive director of NAMI Ohio.

Studies show that many adults with mental illness want to work and approximately 60 percent of them could succeed in a work environment with the appropriate support. Some states have continued to work to make supported employment available, but nationally only 1.7 percent of people served in state mental health systems received supported employment services in 2012. 

Individual Placement and Support (IPS) is designed to help those with mental illness find jobs based on the person’s needs, talents and preferences. According to the study “Supported Employment: Assessing the Evidence,” IPS can be quite successful. The study found that competitive employment rates for people participating in IPS programs were near 60 percent compared to 24 percent for people not in the programs.

Unemployment amongst those with mental illness is caused by several factors. One reason is that “mental illness” has a negative connotation with many people. According to NAMI’s study, many mentally ill people find that disclosing their mental illness has a large effect on hiring and career advancement, even though accommodations for mental illness are low cost and easily implemented.

“Many times they have higher intellectual capabilities than most of us,” Russell said. “(However,) the illnesses are also very mean. The symptoms are obvious to everybody.”

With the expansion of Medicaid, Russell hopes people with mental illness will seek employment they might have otherwise avoided for fear of losing medical benefits. Studies show that people with mental illness who find competitive jobs have higher quality of life, fewer symptoms and lower mental health care costs.

Click here for the full report, Road to Recovery: Employment and Mental Illness.