Mental Illness Stigma Hinders Employment Opportunities More Than Physical Disability

Australian researchers have found that mental illness can create a greater hindrance toward an individual’s job prospects than any physical or other health disability.

The study was commissioned by WISE Employment, a not-for-profit organization that helps job seekers find meaningful work as part of Mental Health Week, which kicked off on Sunday, October 7. The study revealed that mental illness continues to be a serious obstacle to employment. One in every five Australian adults has been affected with a mental illness over the past 12 months. On the employer side, the major obstacle to employing persons suffering mental illness is simple ignorance or lack of understanding, reports Medical News Today.

Working toward the removal of the stigma associated with mental illness as it relates to employment, WISE emphasized that the presence of mental illness is not negatively related to job performance. In fact, research cited by the organization shows that 72 percent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which took on a person with a mental illness had either a very positive or positive experience. Furthermore, employers with at least five employees likely already have at least one employee who suffers from a mental illness in a position of trust and responsibility. WISE maintains that people with a mental illness are capable of doing their jobs well, sometimes even being the best person for a position.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), negative stigma (the potential for discrimination, shame, disrespect, or contempt) is the main reason that three-quarters of individuals suffering from mental illnesses do not seek help. NAMI explains that up to 90 percent of people with a mental illness who seek professional help experience a considerable reduction in their symptoms and achieve a much better quality of life compared to those who do not. Breaking the stigma and altering public awareness relies on support from friends and family and hope on the part of the individual suffering from a mental illness that recovery is possible.

WISE encourages employers who are considering employing somebody who has a mental illness to register a job vacancy online or to call them on 1-300-12-WISE.