Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Saying No to "F" Jobs

For today's post, I had intended to focus on an interview in the December 2003 issue of Psychiatric Times with Zlatka Russinova, Ph.D., a senior research associate at Boston University's Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation who has specialized in researching the connections between mental illness and employment. But when I read my email this morning, I found some important comments, which I'd like to share. So I'll give you the highlights of the Russinova interview and include the comments as well.

In the article, Employment Programs Help Patients with Mental Illness Succeed, Russinova is quoted as saying, "One of the old myths was that people with serious mental illness could only do low-level jobs--the so-called F jobs: flowers, filing, food. We have done studies that have documented capacity of the mentally ill to be successful."

Don't you just love it that she uses the term, the "so-called F jobs"? While some of us can think of another "F" word to describe those jobs, she's on the right tract.

In the late 1990s, Russinova did a study with Marsha Langer Ellison, Ph.D., M.S.W., in which they looked at 495 people who were engaged in professional and managerial careers. Despite their illnesses, these people were able to retain their jobs. While I think it would be helpful to know how they did it, and what tips and advice they might give to others, that's not the focus of this piece. However, the stats are encouraging.

"Seventy-five percent were employed full time; 62% had held their position for more than two years; 28% had held the same job for more than five years. Thirty-three percent were working in non-helping professions; 16% were working in health and social services other than mental health. Thirty percent were in mental health; 21% in self-help advocacy jobs."

Again, if you'd like to read the article on the study, it can be found on the Psychiatric Times site.

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Now, on to the quotes from people who read this blog. Thanks to Syd, Bipolarity, who posted the following: "One resource that I stumbled on last week that I thought I'd share is vocational counseling. I contacted the State Dept of Rehab Services in the state where I live and found out that there are a wide variety of no-cost career counseling and job placement assistance resources available, and at least in my state, BP does qualify for assistance in this program. Examples included aptitude testing, job search support, interview coaching, and even some job training to make transition into the new job easier.

In my case, the counselor seemed very interested in working with me, but suggested (and I believe rightly so) that it would be in my best interest to focus first on getting the proper meds and getting my mood stabilized in order to avoid the job-hunting process itself becoming yet another trigger.

I did find an this article on the subject that may be helpful in your research.

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Thanks to BamaGal, who sent an impassioned comment last night. I've edited it a bit (Hope that's okay BamaGal), but you can read it in its entirety as well.

I had to leave my nursing career behind for awhile. I'm a member of APSE, Association for Persons in Supported Employment (the voc rehab Syd was talking about). They do have a lot of excellent programs to assist you in returning to the work force after an absence. What I'm trying to change within APSE and voc rehab is that they tend to focus more on the MR/physical disability.

Face it. Most employers run at the very mention of severe mental illness. Then, if you try to find a position in another field---you are questioned repeatedly about why you cannot work in your trained field. If it had not been for the local mental health facility, where I had lived at a time in my life, I would not have a job today. I'm very active in our state in the consumer movement. The fate of the mental health system should be placed in the hands of consumers/survivors.

Like the new program that the state of Georgia has put into place, psych rehab tech, recovery is possible. I'm tired of the so-called professionals in the field saying, "Here's your diagnosis. Get used to it." My own therapist tries to get me to just quit work and live off of disability.

Working keeps me more stable. Granted that stress can be a trigger for a big mood swing, one way or the other, but that's where I come into play. I do what I can to keep myself stable. I exercise, eat right, take my meds, and get enough sleep. And, if things go too far south, I have a psychiatric advanced directive in place letting my family know what course of action to take.

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Thank you BamaGal and best of luck with all your advocacy efforts! Then, there's Polly, polarcoaster, who wrote about her experience at the university. Jinnah responded, and now Polly's written back. Thank you Polly!

Jinnah -- thanks for the encouragement in your earlier comments, but you don't have to worry about me giving up on my education, 'cause I'm finally finished with it (unless I decide someday I want a third degree). I didn't listen to the people who said I couldn't do it and I received my master's degree last fall. (Okay, so it was supposed to be last spring, but a few hospitalizations last year messed that up.)

I am not minding working at low-paying jobs so far, but eventually I'm going to have to find something that is actually in my field, which probably won't happen until my boyfriend and I leave this town. I'm not in a rush. Last year was awful, so I don't mind spending a while just getting used to being stable before I start my first real career-type job.

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Good luck one and all. Tomorrow's post will be the last one on work for awhile until I'm able to provide some more substantive information.


Ruthie said...

I am interested in your blog. Thank you for your openness, and your information.

Ruthie said...

Thank you for sharing the information you do and for your openness.