The vocational and educational needs of adults recovering from mental health problems in a community setting, and the strategies, resources, initiatives available to meet them, as far as international literature is concerned: a comprehensive literature review

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O'Brien, Michael
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Community-Academic Research Links, University College Cork
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Background: Generally, individuals affected by mental illness experience its onset during their latent adolescent years which creates a disruption of their formal education and pathways toward employment. It is hoped that the findings within the research will enable community organisations supporting these individuals, to grow and develop their programmes in a fashion that will meet the needs of its service users from a person centred perspective based upon international best practice. This study explored the international literature regarding the best approaches available to support individuals affected with mental illness while living in the community. The research was focused in the areas of education, vocational training and pathways toward employment. It explored how various approaches function, and which were effective in supporting this group of individuals. Objectives: To explore, how best to meet these needs of mental health service users, from an educational, vocational training and employment perspective. To explore the formal and informal benefits of education and vocational training services. Methods: A Comprehensive Literature Review (CLR) was chosen as the method to apply to the study, in order to answer the research question in the correct context allowing for a broad scope. The CLR was used in a comprehensive format, in that it was an amalgamation of both qualitative and quantitative findings from both types of research applications. Results: Individuals living with mental illness within the community place employment at the top of their priorities for themselves. Yet their rates of employment and rates of pay are extremely low compared with the general population. Their capacity to function and perform within the workplace is underestimated due to stereotyping and stigma which exists throughout wider 14 community contexts. Such stigma is also held by medical services as well as community support organisations, who place the focus of their support around training, upholding the historic position of ‘train then place’ which has been shown to be out dated and ineffective. In a comparison of the types of approaches supporting these individuals supplied by community organisations, Supported Employment (SE) was seen to be most effective. The Individual Placement Support (IPS) model of supported employment was cited as being the most studied and most utilised approach internationally, based upon best practice. Methods of improvement around education and pathways to employment were discussed as well as solutions towards addressing the stigmatisation of these individuals within the workplace and the wider community. Conclusion: There are opportunities for vocational education and employment organisations, to develop supported employment programs in Ireland, based upon the IPS model, through a partnership with the mental health services. Such development would require a paradigm shift to the manner by which help is given to individuals living with mental illness in the community currently. However, it would maximise the potentials for such organisations in achieving the goals as prioritised by the service users, reflecting a truly person-centred practice. Considering the testimony of association between unemployment and mental health, action should be undertaken to increase the probability of employment for people who wish to work. The IPS approach has the capacity to accomplish the objectives set out by the State as defined within the Government’s Comprehensive Employment Strategy which defines their plan to achieve their objectives for the next decade. It guarantees that individuals who have disabilities, and wish to gain employment in the open market will be supported in doing so. At the same time, the IPS approach holds the prospect for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, in decreasing the numbers of people with mental health challenges, who are currently reliant upon social welfare payments for all of their income There is a need to have stigma interventions introduced into the structures of society particularly in the workforce so that individuals living with mental illness can attain employment, improve their incomes and the quality of their lives and also the quality of their health. There is a need for employers, co-workers and the extended community to be educated towards the responsibility of society to treat people living with mental illness with respect, preserving their dignity and relating to them as equal citizens. The development of workplace mental health policies presented with precise operating procedures, supported by the values of the relevant companies or organisations could provide a framework that would place mental health comfortably within the workplace. There are opportunities also for community organizations to facilitate vocational coaches to develop what has come to be known as ‘Transition Plans’ with students living with mental health challenges while they are still attending secondary education schools. These plans are then supported and actualized while the students transition from secondary education into their desired career pathway. The development of such connections in Ireland while they are preparing to transition from secondary education into vocational education would go a long way towards stabilizing these individuals during this challenging time in their lives.
Pre-vocational training , Vocational and educational needs , Mental health problems , Mental illness , Mental health service users
O’Brien, M. (2020) The vocational and educational needs of adults recovering from mental health problems in a community setting, and the strategies, resources, initiatives available to meet them, as far as international literature is concerned: a comprehensive literature review. Cork: Community-Academic Research Links, University College Cork.
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