Network A Facilitating access and return to the labour market for those who have difficulty in being integrated or reintegrated into a labour market which must be open to everyone.
Project name Labour Market Entry, Work and Re-entry of People after Mental Illness
Project number A0340

Project description

This Partnership, established by Suwalski Poviat in association with local non-government organisations, welfare institutions and business partners, is intended to work out procedures that will enable occupational reintegration of ex-mental patients.

The studies carried out under Activity 1 and available statistics attest to a difficult situation faced on the labour market by those declared mentally ill. A person declared mentally disabled has several times less chance for finding a job compared to those with other disabilities. Barriers encountered by mentally ill persons, arising mainly from unawareness, phobia or stereotypes, are the key reasons behind their social exclusion. Combined with reclusive behaviour typically shown by mentally ill, this is the key impediment to regaining health and social integration. Also the families of mentally disabled persons are affected by stigmatization. This aggravates their situation, especially in the absence of any institutional system of assistance to the families of people with mental disturbances. For fear of discrimination, shame and difficult access to specialised assistance, both mentally ill and their relatives tend to conceal the problem, while surveys carried out in several countries have indicated that social and occupational reintegration significantly lower the risk of a relapse of the illness.

Activity 2 will cover 120 people from the target group, men and women of working age, mostly with primary, vocational and secondary education level. They have been unemployed for a long time with a various level of disability declared, while taking advantage of social welfare benefits. The members of final beneficiaries' families, having the greatest influence on them, will also be included in the Project, along with employers from Partnership's influence area (ultimately as much as 100 of them). Project beneficiaries (other than direct ones) will include at least the following groups: their family members and employers.

In order for the system of reintegration following a personal social or occupational crisis to be effective, a support in rebuilding beneficiaries' relationships with their immediate environment is required. They will attend individual and group therapy sessions throughout the term of the Project. The sessions are intended to help them to acquire social skills (self-awareness and self-presentation skills), enhance their self-confidence, facilitate contact making and provide them with useful everyday time and finance management tools that will affect their job attitudes (motivation, behaviour and stress control skills).

Due to the illness, a significant number of the beneficiaries were unable to acquire vocational skills or saw their skills falling into obsolete as a result of long-term labour market absence on. Therefore, vocational training events will constitute an important element of the Project. The assistants are to coach them at the placement or internship venue so that they are able to fulfil their responsibilities.

Also the families of ex-patients will be provided with training events to learn how to deal with the protégés so that they are able to regain health and activity. In addition, they will be provided with psychologist's support, since living with a mentally ill person is a huge personal problem and mental burden.

Employers involved in the project will attend dedicated seminars to learn how to alleviate potential risks associated with hiring ex-mental patients (including output deficiencies, unforeseeable behaviour or conflicts). In addition, training will be provided in raising additional funds for hiring disabled persons.

Combating the social discrimination of mentally ill persons will be an important goal of the Partnership. This will be achieved using community events promoting Partnership's activities and the „Understanding and Empathy" educational initiative, as well as an integration event. Another important outcome of the Project will be a change in attitudes towards and general opinion on mentally-ill persons, as well as in employers' attitude to hiring them.

Good practice, vocational training curricula, community assistance schemes, stories by Project-involved employers and draft system solutions promoting a labour market that is open for all will be disseminated under the Project. However, a model of cooperation between the local actors, intended to support occupational integration of those affected by a mental crisis, will be the key outcome of the Project.

Dissemination activities will involve all available communication channels to ensure that all central government agencies, institutions directly involved in the issue (i.e. welfare and psychiatric institutions), labour offices, employers' associations, local governments, non-government organisations and, last but not least, persons affected with a mental illness are aware of Partnership's achievements.