Career Services Guide: Supporting People Affected by Mental Health Issues

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Career Services Guide seeks to improve employment for people with mental health issues

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A new CERIC-funded Career Services Guide is seeking to improve the employment outcomes for people living with mental health problems and illnesses at a time when one in five Canadians experience a mental health issue, with an annual cost to the economy of more than $50 billion.

Entitled Career Services Guide: Supporting People Affected by Mental Health Issues, the guide, along with supporting videos, has been developed by the Nova Scotia Career Development Association (NSCDA) with project partners that include Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Healthy Minds Cooperative, Nova Scotia Certified Peer Support Specialist Program and Canadian Alliance for Mental Health and Mental Illness.

The Career Services Guide was created in response to growing concerns from Canada’s career professionals:

  • An increasing number of clients disclosing mental illness as a barrier to employment
  • Clients not thinking that practitioners had the specialized knowledge to support them if they have mental health concerns
  • Practitioners unsure of how to handle stigma surrounding mental illness when helping clients access employment

The premise of the guide is that employment is a critical cornerstone of social inclusion, yet people living with mental illness face the highest unemployment rate of any disability group. It highlights that although individuals with mental health issues often want and are able to work, many find this a difficult goal to achieve.

This guide is for all career service workers, employment counsellors and career practitioners working in non-mental health specific employment settings. It builds on emerging best practices in employment support, recovery-oriented practices and draws on experts in the field of career counselling and the “experiential expertise” of people living with mental health problems and illness who access counselling services.

The Career Services Guide provides practical insights and hands-on techniques, including:

  • Tools for work-related coaching, motivating clients and dealing with disclosure
  • Knowing how peer support can support employment
  • Understanding the impact of stigma and discrimination and potential solutions
  • Ways to build collaborative partnerships across services to support clients
  • Understanding mental illness and its treatment and accessing services
  • Best practices in supporting employment and engaging employers

The guide is part of a broader effort to create a paradigm shift in thinking focused on changing the way society understands and engages people living with mental health problems. This shift is intended to move towards seeing mental health problems as a normal part of the human experience resulting from a complex interaction between internal and external factors, not as chronic illness that lasts a lifetime.

CERIC provides funding for research as well as learning projects in career development. This project supports learning in one of CERIC’s key Professional Development & Ongoing Learning priority areas: Impact of disability and/or mental health issues on career development.

The Career Services Guide is available as a free download from ceric.ca/mentalhealth.

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