Authors: Anne Miles, Ellen Strochnetter, Sally Whitehead
Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference
Subject: WISE Ways to Work: A seamless pathway from vocational rehabilitation through to employment.
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Senior Occupational Therapist, Anne has overseen the delivery of a key program of WISE Ways to Work, Employ Your Mind, (EYM) since 2015. EYM is a vocational rehabilitation program developed in Scotland. Anne has a Masters of Occupational Therapy from California State University and extensive experience in community and forensic mental health, social enterprises, and social firms, in Australia, USA, and UK.
Ellen is a registered Occupational Therapist and has worked as a Vocational Coach in the WISE Ways to Work program since its inception in February 2018. Ellen has assisted in the facilitation and ongoing design and development of Employ Your Mind which is WISE Ways to Work’s primary rehabilitation program.
Sally was one of the first graduating participants from the Employ Your Mind program (EYM) at WISE Ways to Work, North Melbourne. As one of the pioneering participants, her feedback and reflections assisted the ongoing moulding of EYM delivery. Sally is also a member of WISE Champions, a group focussed on peer leadership, and has presented on her lived experience at a number of recent public functions.
WISE Ways to Work is an initiative of WISE Employment and has been designed and developed to increase the social and economic inclusion of people with mental illness through creating sustainable employment. It includes Employ Your Mind, a 6 month vocational rehabilitation program with cognitive remediation therapy embedded and a graded pathway to paid employment. A network of partner employers provides a range of work exposure opportunities as well as paid work. St Vincent's Mental Health and University of Melbourne are evaluating WISE Ways to Work.
A healthy community is one in which everyone is able to contribute. However, many people with mental illness are disempowered and disconnected from the community due to isolation, poverty, and unemployment. Employment can address this disadvantage; having a job provides a sense of identity, wellbeing, status, and economic and social inclusion.
Despite significant investment in employment support services, the employment outcomes for this group are poor. Reasons for this include:
• The gap between psychosocial rehabilitation services and disability employment support
• Lack of tailored vocational rehabilitation services
• Increasing complexity of workplaces.
• Anxiety about disclosing because of stigma regarding mental illness
WISE Employment’s innovative WISE Ways to Work program provides a seamless continuum of support bridging the gap between rehabilitation and employment. The 7-month, evidence-based Employ Your Mind vocational rehabilitation program builds participants' skills for work, including key cognitive functioning and communication skills. There is gradual exposure to work environments through ‘work orientation’ opportunities with a network of partner employers which also provide responsive supportive employment opportunities for this group.
St Vincent’s Mental Health and Melbourne University are evaluating the program, with encouraging results so far, feedback from current WISE Ways to Work participants has also been positive.
Learning Objective 1: The audience will gain a deeper understanding of:
• the role employment plays in recovery
• the importance of vocational rehabilitation
• the key role of employment-focused partnerships in the mental health service system.
Learning Objective 2: Vocational rehabilitation can play a critical role in recovery, yet is greatly under-utilised. A program focusing on cognitive skills, translated into real-world employment realted situations can be a valuable complement to clinical and community treatment and support.
M A Harold (2018). Employment issues and relevant treatment models for persons with schizophrenia. Journal of Disability Studies 4 (1)
S R McGurk and H Y Meltzer (2000). The role of cognition in vocational functioning in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research 45 (3); 175-184