Mental health services should use proven ways of getting people into work, says leading expert

The following is from the website of The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

18 March 2008

Supported employment offers people with mental health problems a chance to get work, to achieve recovery and to lead fulfilling lives, a leading US expert said in London last night.

Delivering the 2008 Sainsbury Centre Lecture, Professor Robert Drake called on mental health services in the US and the UK to help people to get and keep employment in ways that are proven to work.

Prof Robert Drake said: “Over the past 20 years, supported employment has enabled many people to attain competitive employment. It has energised the field of psychiatric rehabilitation and enhanced our optimism about recovery.

“Yet much remains to be accomplished. Our hope that ineffective practices such as day treatment would be largely replaced by supported employment has yet to happen. Mental health services continue to use antiquated models that fail to help people to achieve their ambitions in life.

“Supported employment does not work for everyone. But research is opening up new possibilities that should help us to continue to make remarkable progress in the next two decades.

“We need to ensure vocational support is truly integrated with mental health care and to reallocate funds from ineffective services to those that work. Mental health services can easily demoralise and debilitate people with severe mental illness. We need to get better at motivating people and activating their sense of hopefulness about the future.

“Improvements are also needed to in-work support when people get jobs, to help them to succeed in satisfying, long-lasting jobs that they consider meaningful careers.”

Responding to the Lecture, Dr Rachel Perkins said: “Too often it is argued that, because the situation in the USA is so different, what works there will not work in the UK. Our work in South West London and other parts of the country, as well as European wide research, show that this is not true.

“Supported employment can be incorporated into routine clinical practice. It has enabled hundreds of people to get and keep work. It also helps people to keep their jobs. People who develop mental health problems are twice as likely to lose their jobs as those with other health problems. But if employment specialists are integrated into community mental health teams the risk is substantially reduced.

“If mental health professionals are pessimistic about people’s employment prospects they end up ‘writing themselves off’ as unable to work. Nationally, half of mental health service users think they are unable to work because of their mental health problems. In the London Borough of Merton, where supported employment is the norm, only a quarter say they are unable to work. And if people believe they can work then all too often they can.”


Professor Robert Drake is Professor of Psychiatry and of Community and Family Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, New Hampshire, USA.

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One Response to “Mental health services should use proven ways of getting people into work, says leading expert”

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