Most consumers with serious mental illness want to work and feel that work is an important goal in their recovery. When they identify work as a goal, consumers usually mean competitive employment, defined as community jobs that any person can apply for, in integrated settings and in regular contact with nondisabled workers, and that pay at least minimum wage. Consumers who are employed for a meaningful length of time demonstrate significant improvements in self-esteem and symptom management compared with clients who do not work.
Need help understanding if and how working will impact your benefits?
What is Supported Employment?
Supported employment is a way to move people from dependence on a service delivery system to independence via competitive employment. Recent studies indicate that the provision of on-going support services for people with severe disabilities significantly increases their rates for employment retention. Supported employment encourages people to work within their communities and encourages work, social interaction, and integration. Read more...
Does your family have concerns about your plans to work?
The NAMI NH Supported Employment Family Team is made up of volunteer family members who have a loved one with mental illness. The Family Team members work to educate people about the barriers and the myths that go with returning to work, helping families to understand that work is a possibility for their loved one. Team members are available to speak with families about the availability of employment programs and the opportunities they can provide. With this information families are then able to encourage and support their loved one with mental illness in their goals of returning to work. Questions? Contact Ellen Malloy - Email - 603.225.5359.
Recovery from Mental Illness : Community Supports By Julia Freeman-Woolpert, Disabilities Rights Center "In your crystal ball, what does life look like?"Kathy Raymond from the Center for Life Management(CLM), the community mental health center in Derry, asksthis question to help the people she works with envisiona better future.When Mike* looks into his crystal ball his anxiety is undercontrol and he can go beyond the comfort zone of hisparents' home. He is confident around people, has a job,and is getting a place of his own.Mike lives with schizophrenia and extreme anxiety. Now inhis 40's, he's lived with his parents his entire life, the onlyexception being periods when he was hospitalized. Mike'sanxiety and paranoia make it terrifying for him to go intomany community settings. Shopping malls with teenagersare the worst. He spends most of his time alone at homelistening to music and watching videos.Mike has been participating in CLM's Illness Managementand Recovery Program. For the last two years, Erin Wood,an Illness Management and Recovery Specialist, has beenMike's community counselor. Mike is learning to confronthis fears and develop coping strategies to manage hisanxiety.Talking about Mike, Erin observed, "He's a verysmart guy. He's also very caring. He treats others well."With Erin's support, Mike has learned about his mentalillnessand how to handle stress. He has begun to set goalsand has a vision of what he wants in his life. A primary goalfor Mike is to get out of the house more and go to publicplaces without being paralyzed by anxiety.Functional support services are helping Mike becomemore confident and independent. Erin has provided Mikewith behavioral supports or "tutoring" on how to cope ina stressfulsituation. They started by spending time in lesscrowed places, ones without a lot of loud teenagers. It wasa slow process. First they drove by a store, the next tripthey looked in the door, and on the third trip went insidewhere Mike practiced making eye contact and saying hello.As Mike got more comfortable they ventured further. Theywent to the mall early in the morning when few peoplewere out. Mike practiced going into stores on his own whileErin waited outside.Mike wanted to become involved with the new peer supportcenter in Derry. Again, Mike and Erin went about this onestep at a time. They began with a brief tour of the center.They later returned to fill out membership paperwork. On athird visit they sat down with a member of the center whohelped Mike create a wellness plan. Now Mike no longerneeds Erin to accompany him to the center. He is part ofa music appreciation group and joined a walking group.In moving towards his goal of having a job, Mike beganas a volunteer at an assisted living facility. Erin supportedMike in learning how to communicate with staff and othervolunteers at the facility. She helped him to understandhis responsibilities and worked with him to arrange transportationto and from work. Mike is now able to do allof this independently and is working with a SupportedEmployment Specialist to find a paying job. He also isconcentrating on developing the skills he needs to live onhis own. This includes learning to manage his finances so heno longer will need the services of a representative payee.For Erin, seeing Mike and the other people she supportsbeginning to recover from mental illness and reach theirgoals has been extremely gratifying. As she observed, "Ifyou believe in a person they can do great things."* Mike prefers to remain anonymous due to the stigma associatedwith mental illness.
Has Your Loved One Expressed an Interest in Working?
Employment: A right and an expectation of citizenship
Working offers more than just getting a paycheck. It is the vehicle for developing skills, building relationships, achieving personal fulfillment and contributing to ones community.
People with disabilities express that they want a career not just a job. They want more education and training, more hours, higher wages, and they want their own home. People want enough money to do whatever they want....just like everyone else.
Kathy Snow author of "Disability Is Natural: Revolutionary Common Sense for Raising Successful Children with Disabilities" travels across the country. She talks about setting high expectations for individuals with disabilities and using common sense to help them succeed. She emphasizes that disability is only one of many characteristics that make up the whole person. She helps people think about how someone can be employed rather than if they can be employed.
There are barriers to getting back to work that are common among families:
Someone not being ready at this time- Give them time to get well, when they are ready, be open to talking about their interests and ideas, this information will help you to guide them to work they will enjoy.
The concern over loss of benefits- People on disability will not immediately lose their benefits by returning to work. It is important to have all the facts so contact the experts who can help you and your loved one to plan. These include the Benefits Specialist at the Community Mental Health Center, Granite State Independent Living and your local Social Security office.
Needing assistance applying for work- There are programs available through Community Mental Health, Vocational Rehabilitation and Granite Pathways. See references below
Fearful that working will cause a relapse- This is a huge issue for families who have waited a considerable time for their loved one to move into recovery, we are fearful of anything that might jeopardize that. Ask your loved one to include you in a meeting with their mental health provider, to give you a chance to air your concerns and get professional input. Consider that for many people, working helps the recovery process.
Concerns that the type of employment offered will not be interesting or challenging- The benefits to working with an Employment Specialist or Clubhouse or Vocational Rehabilitation is that these professionals will be able to take your loved one's interests and strengths and help them find work that connects to both.
Addressing the barriers can help us be successful at helping people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness become employed
Research shows that for many people with mental illness the opportunity to have a regular job is an important part of the recovery process and 70% of adults with a serious mental illness desire work.
Inquire at your local community mental health center if they have an employment program available. They might offer a program that assists people with mental illness who are interested in obtaining meaningful work.
Granite Pathways is a privately funded, nonprofit organization that provides dignity and hope for adults with mental illness who are seeking recovery and personal fulfillment. We follow the certification standards of the International Center for Clubhouse Development (ICCD).The term "Certified Clubhouse" refers to a specific model of peer support and rehabilitation that originated with Fountain House in New York City in 1948. Today it is recognized as an evidence-based practice with superior outcomes in employment, educational advancement, and wellness.
It is an ICCD clubhouse that is centered around a work oriented day. It offers people with mental illness, help in finding employment out in the community. Visit http://granitepathways.org for more info.
Vocational Rehabilitation is another agency in the state that will work with your loved one to help determine their strengths and interests and assist them in finding employment or participating in a training program. Contact the administration office for your local office.
21 South Fruit Street Suite 20
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 271-3471 or 1-800-299-1647
Work as Part of Recovery
Read Trish's story!
The resources below help individuals with disabilities to reach their employment goals
Granite State Independent Living (GSIL) GSIL is a statewide nonprofit, service, and advocacy organization that provides tools for living life on your terms – so you can navigate your own life and participate as fully as you choose in your community, just like everyone else. We have offices in Concord, Berlin, Keene, Littleton, Manchester, Nashua and Dover.
21 Chenell Drive
Concord, NH 03301
800/826-3700 (Toll-free) (V/TTY)
Social Security Administration (SSA) Work Site
This site contains information about SSA's Ticket-to-Work program. Under this program, SSA provides disability beneficiaries with a Ticket they may use to obtain the services and supports they need from organizations called Employment Networks. The Ticket-to-Work Program is an employment program specifically designed for people with disabilities who are interested in going to work.
Medicaid for Employed Adults with Disabilities (MEAD) allows individuals who qualify for Medicaid to be gainfully employed, save money, and still maintain needed Medicaid healthcare coverage through a sliding scale buy-in program. To learn more, please visit:www.dhhs.nh.gov/ombp/medicaid/mead.htm
Work Incentives Resource Center provides online access to information about work incentives and vocational counseling services. Please visit: www.nhwirc.org
A Statewide Marketing Effort has created the I AM SUCCESS and WE ARE SUCCESS campaign to highlight the abilities of workers with disabilities. To learn more about the campaign, please visit: http://www.mcst-nh.org
For more information about New Hampshire's strategic employment plan, please visit
Recovery from Mental Illness: Community Supports
Talking about Mike, Erin observed, "He's a very smart guy. He's also very caring. He treats others well." With Erin's support, Mike has learned about his mental illness and how to handle stress. He has begun to set goals and has a vision of what he wants in his life. A primary goal for Mike is to get out of the house more and go to public places without being paralyzed by anxiety. Functional support services are helping Mike become more confident and independent. Erin has provided Mike with behavioral supports or "tutoring" on how to cope in a stressful situation. They started by spending time in less crowded places, ones without a lot of loud teenagers. It was a slow process. First they drove by a store, the next trip they looked in the door, and on the third trip went inside where Mike practiced making eye contact and saying hello. As Mike got more comfortable they ventured further. They went to the mall early in the morning when few people were out. Mike practiced going into stores on his own while Erin waited outside. Mike wanted to become involved with the new peer support center in Derry. Again, Mike and Erin went about this one step at a time. They began with a brief tour of the center. They later returned to fill out membership paperwork. On a third visit they sat down with a member of the center who helped Mike create a wellness plan. Now Mike no longer needs Erin to accompany him to the center. He is part of a music appreciation group and joined a walking group. In moving toward his goal of having a job, Mike began as a volunteer at an assisted living facility. Erin supported Mike in learning how to communicate with staff and other volunteers at the facility. She helped him to understand his responsibilities and worked with him to arrange transportationto and from work. Mike is now able to do all of this independently and is working with a Supported Employment Specialist to find a paying job. He also is concentrating on developing the skills he needs to live on his own. This includes learning to manage his finances so he no longer will need the services of a representative payee. For Erin, seeing Mike and the other people she supports beginning to recover from mental illness and reach their goals has been extremely gratifying. As she observed, "If you believe in a person they can do great things."
*Mike prefers to remain anonymous due to the stigma associated with mental illness.