Stigma continues to be a barrier that “makes it very difficult for people with mental illness to access employment.” This is confirmed by Ral Naranjo, coordinator of the Work Rehabilitation Center of Retirees of the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Line of Hospital Sisters (LRHP), who as a member of the Advisor for Social Policies, Families, Equality and Birth of the Community of Madrid operates two Vocational Rehabilitation Centers in Madrid serving a total of 130 users.
“People in hiring roles have the same biases towards people with mental illness that we have in the rest of society. In general, there is an idea that these are dangerous people, that they are not easy to manage, unpredictable or with very debilitating symptoms and difficulties and continuously present. All of these ideas are wrong, ”argues Naranjo, who explains that there is no single profile of a person suffering from mental disorders:“ there are obviously people who have a degree of impairment and difficulties in their functioning. which make them very difficult to work with (at least until there is no improvement). But there is also a large portion of people with mental disorders who are able to function well in a job, with good performance and good social adjustment. In fact, they are already doing it despite the existing stigma. “
For the expert, the best way to fight against these stigmas is to allow those who have the possibility of hiring to know these people directly. “There is nothing more transformative of our prejudices than a direct experience of relationship with the other. Feel through the interaction how many of your ideas are contradicting or transforming at the same time that you begin to know the reality of this person beyond the diagnostic labels ”, he reflects before pointing out that a placement not only has an impact on the person who is integrated, but also “serves to gradually break down this wall of stigma and gradually transform the social view that exists about these people”.
Benefits of workplace integration for people with mental illness
According to the head of LRHP, work integration can have different benefits for people with mental illness. For Naranjo, from a subjective point of view, many users experience professional integration “as a stage of normalization or as an escape from the experience of being someone different, away from certain public spheres like the employment”. In this sense, he assures us, this integration into the world of work has a “very beneficial” effect on the self-esteem of users, which is added to the “subjective satisfaction of the task performed”.
From a practical point of view, on the other hand, professional integration allows users to “develop social relationships and interactions with other people”, it gives them economic advantages “which can be a means of undertaking d ‘other projects and to develop as people’; and, in addition, it allows them to “structure their time”, by creating differentiated spaces for work and leisure, “which is difficult to achieve except with a work activity, training or volunteering” .
However, according to Ral Naranjo, these benefits can be “very variable” between users. This is the case with users where onboarding has a very high and fast impact on their life due to any of the above mentioned circumstances. However, there are also others in which the impact of professional integration is low. “This is sometimes because the work done does not bring subjective satisfaction, as it is usually low-paying jobs, or because in addition to the benefits it can present, the work also creates situations that can be stressful for the company. nobody, ”he reflects. According to the expert, when the user wishes to work in order to feel normalized, this work has “first of all a very favorable impact”. The complicated thing, he adds, is “sustaining” that impact over time “if that job doesn’t provide other benefits or serve some other purpose.”
This lack of vocation for the jobs held and the precariousness of jobs are two of the major limitations of access to employment for people with mental illness. “Obviously, it is not the same thing to work in a profession related to what you have always wanted to do and with good working conditions, as to do it in precarious work and in an activity that meaningless to you or even unpleasant to you, ”Naranjo explains. , who nevertheless considers this problem to be “perfectly applicable” to a significant part of the general population, in particular young people.
Finally, the psychologist points out a final limitation, the lack of training qualifications of many users. This is largely due to the fact that these types of mental disorders usually appear in early youth, at a crucial time for any person’s formative development. “There are no adequate plans to ensure that when these conditions appear, they can detect and make the necessary adaptations or interventions to ensure that the training of these people is not interrupted. However, what usually happens is that when the crisis appears, studies are abandoned and later it becomes difficult to resume them. Fortunately, yes, there are exceptions and we have users with engineers, doctorates and other types of higher education, ”he concludes.