New Standard for Employing People with Mental Health Issues
21 April 2017 at 3:44 pm
An Australian not-for-profit service provider has “set a new standard” for employing people with mental health issues after actively seeking people with a lived experience to take up roles.
Following a three-year targeted campaign Flourish Australia has achieved a “breakthrough” in mental health employment by hiring 350 people who identify as living with a mental health issue, making up half of its 700-strong workforce.
According to the organisation, which provides programs, employment and accommodation for people with mental health issues in New South Wales and Queensland, no other organisation in Australia employs so many people with mental health issues.
Flourish Australia CEO Pamela Rutledge said they wanted to demonstrate that people with a mental health issue have the skills, knowledge and experience to contribute to any workplace, despite so often being neglected in the labour market.
“We’ve actively sought people with a lived experience to take up roles with us and the response has been incredible,” Rutledge said.
“Given that we’re a not for profit supporting people with mental health issues, it’s appropriate that people with a lived experience should make up at least half of our workforce.
“We’re also showing that people with a mental health issue can fill positions across the spectrum of roles in any organisation and perform with distinction.”
The 350 workers are spread across many positions, from full-time executive management roles through to part-time support roles.
Rutledge said the campaign had attracted a wide variety of candidates.
“We’ve had people with impeccable senior corporate experience and qualifications come forward, through to people looking for a career change and unemployed people looking for a job start.
“Who’d have thought that having a lived experience would be a drawcard for getting a job, when for so long such people have lived with the fear of rejection?”
According to the organisation the success of the campaign is due in part to the take-up rate of “peer-work” positions at Flourish Australia, whereby people with a lived experience of a mental health issue are recruited and trained to support others on their recovery journeys.
Flourish Australia’s Why Not a Peer Worker? employment program has seen many people from all walks of life take up front-line mental health support roles.
Flourish Australia inclusion manager and NSW deputy mental health commissioner Fay Jackson, who has lived experience of mental health issues, said she hoped the outcome would prompt employers across Australia to take on workers with a lived experience.
“Our door is open for any employer who wants to see how successful employing people with mental health issues can be,” Jackson said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a position in finance, IT, service delivery, administration, policy or research. We’re showing that people with a lived experience can deliver if they’re given a chance.
“Whether you’re a not for profit, corporate or government employer, you can make a massive investment by taking on workers with a lived experience.
“We can show very quickly that people with a mental health issue are as – if not more – productive than others, because they’re hungry to prove themselves.
“A key is having the right workplace education, HR and management strategies to boost co-worker understanding of what living with a mental health issue means, and to provide a mentally healthy workplace for all your staff.”
Flourish Australia director and psychiatrist Dr Josey Anderson said stable employment was extremely important to recovery when mental health issues were in play.
“Around 50 per cent of the population will be managing a mental health issue at some stage in their lives,” Anderson said.
“Stable and meaningful employment is vitally important for anyone on a recovery journey.
“Unemployment can be disastrous and part of a downward mental health spiral, resulting in incalculable economic and social costs. A stable job gives all of us a sense of meaning, stability, participation and independence.
“It’s hard though when stigma and ignorance see people with a lived experience discriminated against and left out of jobs that they’re perfectly capable of filling.
“The Flourish Australia achievement sets a new standard for employing people with mental health issues.”