Pathways to employment for people in the recovery phase of mental illness
The study sought to identify through the action research process what local employers concerns were in relation to the employment of individuals in a phase of recovery from mental illness. The barriers to employment experienced by service users living in a North London Borough were also explored. The study aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of the reluctance by employers to employ individuals with a known mental illness who are in a phase of recovery. It also sought to hear about the lived experiences and perspectives on the barriers experienced to accessing or being in employment from a service user’s perspective. There is limited literature examining this area within this North London Borough.\ud This qualitative study was informed by my professional background where I hold a dual role of managing mental health services in the community and as a lecturer in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at Middlesex University. Both roles are concerned with promoting the mental health well-being of individuals who experience mental illness. The study adopted an action research design, where six focus groups were held, three with service users and three with employers or employer representatives within a North London Borough.16 employer representatives and 28 service users participated across the six focus groups. The data gathered from each focus group was digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was used to identify the main themes and subsequent sub –themes from the data gathered.\ud The findings from the research indicate that there are many stakeholders that are involved in supporting individuals back into employment. They also show that mental health and mental ill health are poorly understood in workplace environments. Evidence from this study indicated that while work and employment were thought by both participant types to be important determinants of mental health those individuals with diagnosed mental illnesses remain at a significant disadvantage in the employment market. This points to a need for developments that educate employers, employees and various other stake-holders involved in the employment process on mental health and mental illness in the work- place environment. The main contribution of this research is that of a support and educational package for employers and employees, which has core content but will change in its focus depending on the audience it is being delivered to.