- Job applicants with serious mental illnesses who participated in a 12-month Rutgers University study said that their long-term physical health conditions — rather than their long-term mental illnesses — were more likely to prevent them from job-seeking, according to a statement.
- The study examined 162 people with serious mental illness living in supportive housing programs. Nearly half had a high school diploma while 27% were college-educated, and about 60% had not been employed in the previous five years. Researchers found during monthly check-ins that in each check-in, 11% to 26% of participants reported that physical health conditions (i.e. diabetes, obesity) prevented job-seeking, while 0% to 2% reported barriers due to their mental illnesses (i.e. lack of energy due to depression or anxiety symptoms).
- Some 11.4 million U.S. adults have a serious mental illness, according to Rutgers University, and up to 90% of that group is unemployed. Long-term unemployment is a "major concern" for those with serious mental illness, the university said, because it can exasperate stress, anxiety, depression and other conditions while reducing access to needed care.
The Rutgers study is concerned mainly with the aspects of providing care for individuals with mental illnesses, but employers also have an obligation to ensure those with mental illnesses and other disabilities have an equal playing field both in the recruiting process and in the workplace.
For one, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for job seekers with disabilities so that such candidates may be considered for a job opening. According to guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, this may include modifying certain equipment or procedures, or otherwise ensuring that recruitment, interviews, tests and other components of the application process are held in accessible locations.
Even after they've succeeded in getting a job, employees with mental health conditions globally report experiencing instances of workplace discrimination on top of fatigue and loss of stamina caused by their illnesses, according to a 2019 analysis by consulting company Kantar. It's a reminder to employers that some forms of disability, including mental illness, are not always visible and may necessitate job modifications or other accommodations in order to help workers be successful, according to experts who spoke at the 2019 Society for Human Resource Management annual conference.
Employers can improve their accommodation process for those with mental illnesses by training staff to be more aware of common accommodation-request triggers and by improving employee assistance program resources, sources previously told HR Dive. Other suggestions are more cultural, including support of wellness resources. Another recent study showed that remote-work options may allow those with long-term disabilities to more effectively contribute.