When we look for employment or a new job, it’s very helpful to have a family member in our corner, cheering us on. When someone has a mental illness, the need for a supportive family member is even greater, as the road to finding employment can be quite bumpy. Unfortunately, while trying to protect a family member with a mental illness, some of the most well-intentioned, supportive, and loving relatives can in fact put up roadblocks, rather than collaboratively working to help smooth out the path to employment. This often results from the tremendous amount of misinformation floating around out there about mental illness and employment.
For instance, one myth is that work will cause stress and threaten mental stability. In almost all cases, this is simply false. In fact, the opposite is more likely to occur. Like many of us, once someone is engaged in meaningful employment, their life becomes richer, both personally and professionally. Almost all people, including those with a mental illness, experience an improved sense of self-worth, an enhanced sense of purpose and feel more rooted and connected to their respective communities. So, a reduction in stress as a result of employment is actually the likelier outcome.
One of the biggest myths that NAMI members must help put to rest, is that getting a job will jeopardize benefits. This is simply not true. If an individual receiving SSI or SSDI gets a job, the amount of the check may decrease. However, when the subsidy check and the employment check are added together, the combined total will always be greater.
Also, it is no longer accurate that getting a job will make someone with a disability ineligible for Medicaid coverage, or require them to pay a “spend down.” Under Medicaid Buy-In, a single individual can earn up to $26,000, not including adjustments, and still be eligible for Medicaid. (It is important for individuals to consult with trained Benefits Planners, as multiple adjustments can almost double the amount that a person can earn and still remain eligible for Medicaid.)
NAMI encourages you to please, be critical and don’t necessarily trust everything you read out there about mental illness. NAMI Advocates constantly educate themselves on the most up-to-date, accurate information about current mental health issues so they can continue to share the facts and remain a trusted, valuable resource.
There are several incredible resources to learn more. Here are a few to get you started:
In May 2010, NAMI Ohio hosted a two-day Summit on Supported Employment to educate advocates about the importance of supported employment to the recovery process. Additionally, we encouraged participants to be more active in their local communities by promoting services to help individuals with mental illness find and retain meaningful employment. We have put together a toolkit which is posted on our website.