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Employment is a key determinant of health and well-being, as well as and essential element of recovery for people with mental health conditions. Persons with serious mental health conditions often experience the highest rates of under/unemployment. Without access to quality employment many people rely on income supports from social assistance, which are inadequate to maintain a decent standard of living. Access to an employment service provider specializing in supports for persons with mental health conditions can help increase the changes of gaining employment that is meaningful to the job seeker and pays a competitive wage.

Ontario can do a better job helping people with mental health problems to connect with the labour market. There are increasingly more options for job seekers with mental health conditions who want to (re)enter the workforce. They can choose to work in social enterprises owned and operated by persons with mental health conditions (once referred to as alternative businesses), or they can work in mainstream employment in a range of fields dependent on their skills and preference. The right combination of employment support services, disability income programs, human rights legislation, and education and economic incentives can make an enormous difference. Service providers that provide this combination of employment support services can be accessed via the employment mental health supports network.

Ontario employment services available to persons with mental health conditions:

To work in a social enterprise for persons with mental health conditions you can contact Working for Change (formerly, The Ontario Council for Alternative Businesses).

To work in mainstream employment, there are a range of employment service providers that can assist you find and keep employment. For a list of specialized employment supports intended for job seekers with mental health conditions, you can contact Connex Ontario for information and resources.

Job seekers can also access the employment programs offered by The Ontario Disability Support Program. You do not have to be a social assistant recipient to qualify for assistance.

Alternative Business

Alternative businesses are now more commonly referred to now as social enterprises. These are social purpose enterprises that are run by and for people who have direct experience with the formal mental health system. These businesses provide meaningful employment opportunities for persons who have mental health conditions. They pay a competitive wage or one that is based on a wage structure that reflects the industry (such as couriers). Social enterprises also offer the chance to acquire new skills and extend interests and capacities of employees. Working for Change provides information over the phone and can share helpful documents about setting up an alternative business, or finding one in your area.

Related Resources

Mental Health Works helps organizations to manage their duty to accommodate employees experiencing mental disabilities such as depression or anxiety in the workplace.

The Mental Health Employment Supports Network is a provincial network of employment service providers that offer employment supports to persons with mental health conditions. There are over 40 agencies/programs across Ontario to choose from. Identify the one closest to where you live.

The Working in Mental Health website asks as an on-line career resource center to connect you to jobs in the mental health sector

The Canadian Association for Supported Employment is a national association of community-based service providers and stakeholders who are active and invested in Employment for Persons with disabilities.

Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR) Réadaptation Psychosociale (RPS) Canada is an association of individuals and organizations committed to the provision and growth of psychosocial rehabilitation services to support the recovery of persons with serious mental health issues

The Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) is a professional body of employment service providers and other interested stakeholders united to increase employment opportunities for people who have a disability. CMHA Ontario is a member.

Related Documents

Proceedings from CMHA Ontario’s Employment Supports Forum, May 31 and June 1, 2010.

Employment and Education for People with Mental Illness is a joint discussion paper of The Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario and The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. It identifies the challenges that prevent persons with mental health problems from better connecting with the labour market. This paper concludes with six action items.

Steps to Employment is a self-help workbook to assist you begin your job search.

Strategies for Job Retention by Persons with a Psychiatric Disability is a useful resource developed by CMHA National.