If you or someone you love was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, you may wonder if it is possible for them to maintain employment. While every case of schizophrenia is different, it is important for the person to have healthy coping strategies and a good support system before attempting to join the workforce. If you are a potential employer, it is important to make sure you do not discriminate on the basis of a schizophrenia diagnosis.
Being in a manageable phase of the disease is essential to gaining employment.
Having proven coping strategies when early symptoms of the disorder begin may help restore mental balance.
Stigma, special accommodations, and potential relapse are some disadvantages individuals with schizophrenia face when job searching.
It can be helpful to participate in programs that help place people with schizophrenia in a job setting best suited for their talents and abilities.
Employment and income may be an incentive for staying on the treatment plan.
Being in the recovery phase of the disease is critical to gaining employment. The recovery phase is a more settled and manageable stage of schizophrenia. Generally attained through effective medication, behavioral or cognitive therapies, or a combination of both, for a prolonged time. The recovery phase usually includes a support care team of a psychiatrist, psychologist, and family and friends. Sustaining employment and income may be a big plus and a big incentive for staying on the treatment plan.
Schizophrenia coping strategies
A report in 2016 worked with 20 people living with schizophrenia who were successfully employed. The objective of the report was to identify coping strategies they used to help them through and pass the disrupting symptoms when they began to surface. They shared these:
- Stay away from triggers. Keep away from bad triggers like alcohol, drugs, and stressors.
- Find support. Have a person or people for strength and comfort when you need to talk.
- Take your medications. It is important to take effective medications that stabilize the disease consistently.
- Stay engaged in therapy. Use cognitive behavioral therapy at the onset of psychosis.
- Create a peaceful space. Arrange your workspace to soothe your mind and mood.
- Use centering practices. Practice meditation and prayer.
- Stay active. Sticking to an exercise routine frees the mind of cluttering thoughts and apprehensions.
- Stay busy. Staying busy and focused can distract from warped delusions or hallucinations.
No two cases of schizophrenia are alike. No two people with coping strategies use the same tactics, either. Some use multiple action plans and implement self-taught measures to keep the work-related struggles to a minimum, such as:
- Sleep well. Get plenty of sleep the night before work.
- Stay close. Obtaining a job near home for an easy commute to work.
- Find your passion. Having a hobby outside of work encourages passion and strengthens self-esteem and confidence.
- Know your limits. You have to decide if it is better for you to work part time or full time.
Challenges facing people with schizophrenia in the workforce
There are many challenges that people with schizophrenia face when trying to join the workforce.
A typical attitude about someone with mental illness is they are not suitable for a work environment. More often than not, it's not their illness that limits their chance; the stigma and stereotyping they face daily limits their potential. It's essential to recognize their talents and strengths and support them.
It's difficult for someone with any mental illness to disclose it to their immediate supervisor, and they may live with the additional burden of having to hide their condition. Requesting special adjustments or considerations may not be an option or well received by an employer. Flexibility and considerations are essential aspects of a good job fit when living with schizophrenia and holding down employment.
Potential for relapse is possible, and knowing how to recognize the signs of an early symptom worsening is crucial to staying strong in recovery. Accessing therapy and psychosocial support helps to refocus on getting back to work and staying on track.
Best job opportunities for people with schizophrenia
Setting up the best chance for acquiring a job improves the odds for a person with schizophrenia. Locating a support program for individuals with mental illness that offers vocational training and job coaching may increase the odds of finding the best-fit job based on the individual's strengths and abilities.
A job coach can help identify not just your strengths but your weakness, as well as your passions and your fears. These particular qualities are essential to locate a good job fit. For example, is the person a "night owl" or an "early bird?" What time of the day they are at their best may help them decide between a day shift or night shift position.
Find an alliance
Realizing you're not alone in your struggle to be a part of the workforce is an added consolation to belonging to a mental health organization that offers guidance, resources, and support to individuals and families with mental illnesses. Three such organizations are:
- Mental Health America (MHAO)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- Schizophrenia and Psychosis Action Alliance
With prolonged periods of remission and a safety net of coping strategies, employment is possible for someone with schizophrenia. Finding the right job is not always easy, but having a sense of their strengths and talents narrows down the best-fit opportunities they may qualify for and succeed.
- Psychiatric Services. How Occupationally High-Achieving Individuals with a Diagnosis of Schizophrenia Manage Their Symptoms.
- Schizophrenia Bulletin. Schizophrenia–Time to Commit to Policy Change.