Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Meaningful Work

Work is at the very heart of contemporary life for most people, providing financial security, personal identity, and an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to community life. The right to meaningful, productive work is a basic human need. Employment provides five factors that promote mental health: time structure, social contact and affiliation, collective effort and purpose, social and personal identity, and regular activity. The absence of these crucial factors puts any individual's psychological well being at risk -- whether or not they suffer from a persistent mental illness.

However, for people with persistent mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, or schizophrenia, attaining this right is extremely challenging. It has been estimated that the unemployment rate among those with persistent mental illnesses is an astonishing 90% -- far higher than the 50% unemployment rate among individuals with physical or sensorial disabilities. In other words, only 10% of individuals with persistent mental illness who want to work and have been judged able to work are working. Mental illness hits more human lives and gives rise to a greater waste of human resources than all other forms of disability.

Research has shown that "normal" employed individuals who become unemployed are at more than twice the risk of suffering from major depression.

And by work, I don't mean sorting cardboard or crushing aluminium cans in some workshop, though that is better than nothing. I think unemployment is the reason suicide rates are so high on reservations and also amongst mental health "clients" who see no purpose in life.

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