Over the past years, several studies have indicated that work benefits our physical and mental health. While unemployment can damage our health, research has shown that being in employment can play a vital role in recovery for many people with mental health problems. Yet, people with severe and enduring mental health problems are less likely to be in paid employment than any other disadvantaged group. They also have one of the lowest employment rates in Europe. Furthermore, young people have become disproportionately affected by the recent recession and economic crisis, which is why Mental Health Europe believes special attention needs to be given to young people that are coping with mental health problems. This campaign aimes to show that, with proper support, it is possible for young persons with severe mental health problems wishing to work to achieve lasting employment.

Therefore, Mental Health Europe is supporting and raising awareness for the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) method. There is strong evidence that IPS is the most effective method of helping people with severe mental health problems achieve sustainable competitive employment.

As community-based mental health services are being introduced and implemented across Europe, the nature of employment also changes. There is now more emphasis on social inclusion and integration, as seen in the rise of social policy for people with mental health problems. Traditional work schemes such as protected and sheltered workplaces reflect a ‘institutional’ way of tackling employment of persons with mental health problems. Also, the sheltered work schemes do not provide a route to open employment. The assumption of the sheltered setting was that people who developed skills and confidence in a protected area would move on to open employment. However, despite good intentions, it seems that such schemes often succeed only in convincing individuals that they are incapable of working outisde a sheltered environment. Additionally young people with mental health problems experience both individual and structural barriers to employment  –  low motivation and confidence, side-effects of medication, fear of losing welfare benefits, employers’ attitudes, perceived stigma and discrimination, and healthcare professionals’ low expectations of them. The low expectations held by mental health professionals are driven by the dominance of a model of illness that emphasizes symptoms and cure, as opposed to a model of recovery, access and the social aspects of management.

The IPS method is less focused on the individual’s diagnosis, as research shows no evidence of a relationship between employment outcomes and the individual’s diagnosis, severity of impairment and social skills. The indicators that do appear to be important predictors of work outcomes include recent employment history, motivation and self-efficacy. Wanting to work and believing that you can are the best predictors of work outcomes. It is in this area that IPS can provide help and support to anyone who expresses the desire to work, regardless of the nature of their mental health problems. It encourages interest and builds confidence in working and sustaining employment, by helping the individual get a job consistent with his/her work goals.