If the job fits (the disorder), work it!

If the job fits (the disorder), work it!

For people on the spectrum of mental health disabilities, it can be difficult to hold a job. The social formalities that may come naturally to a majority of the population are much more difficult for people with Autism Spectrum disorder. People with OCD have trouble with anxiety and need to have everything a specific way. The thing is, they are people and they still have a brain and a heart. People with a mental disorder can still function in society, but many believe that this is not true.

Everyone is born with the potential to make a successful life and flourish in society. Some are able to gain more with less work, while others have to fight for success. The National Alliance on Mental Illness writes on their website, NAMI.com, “Almost 80 percent of the nearly 7 million individuals served by the public mental health system in this country are unemployed. About 60 to 70 percent of these same people want to work and would work if they had appropriate support.” The issues of concentration, absence from work, awkward social tendencies and periods of illness make it difficult for employers to hire people with a mental illness. However, there are tools and organizations to help.

Tools at your disposal

The National Institute on Mental Health –NIMH—funds a website jobtips.com through dot2learn.com, dedicated to giving advice and tips for teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder find work and more importantly, keep the job. With guides, exercises and easy to access information, this site is an excellent tool for anyone looking to transition into the working world. They are also one of several sources that will recommend holding back on mentioning a mental health issue if it does not interfere with the job. However, this is only for consideration and will vary greatly on the job and the severity of the mental illness. This type of disclosure is allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

NAMI summarizes supported employment as, “a well-defined approach to helping people with disabilities participate in the competitive labor market, helping them find meaningful jobs and providing ongoing support from a team of professionals.” It may be more of a challenge for the employer, but people with a mental disorder or illness, tend to be more dedicated to their job and work harder.

Other tips and options

The Indiana Resource Center for Autism recommends a list of jobs for people with autism or poor verbal skills. Some options include restocking shelves in any setting, factory assembly work, fast food restaurants and others.

For people with OCD it is recommended by beyondocd.com that people with OCD may enjoy simple low-stress jobs such as accounting, analytics, software engineering, machine operations, librarian, dietician or an audiologist. However, they also recommend graphic designer, animator or photography for those who are bursting with creativity. They note that some jobs will be more stressful than others and it depends on the company and the level of OCD for the level of stress.

PsychologyToday.com quotes Victoria Maxwell from her show, “Funny, You Don’t Look Crazy,” about employment for those with mental illness. She lists three tips for those with mental illnesses who are job seekers and want to have some challenge in their life.

  1. Maxwell says to search into the jobs of interest and find if they are supportive of people with mental illnesses. Certainly if they don’t mention employee well-being at all then that’s a red flag for you.”
  2. “Remember you have experience successfully managing your illness.” Maxwell explains that being employed prior to searching or in the process of searching, means that the illness should be somewhat under control. Understand the symptoms and how to deal with them
  3. The supportive workplace will be different for each individual. “No workplace will be perfect of course. But you can find supportive workplaces, supportive managers and environments that value you for your talents and respect your needs.”

A mental illness challenges the individual with varying severity and symptoms and because of the extreme cases being seen as the norm a stigma has grown. This stigma lead to society not realizing that people with mental illnesses are as capable as anyone else at working in specific settings.

The CA Mental Health Helpline strives to help people understand and seek treatment for a mental illness. If you or a loved one struggle with a mental illness or condition and wish to seek advice, please call 855-559-3923.