Harlan Still & Koch

Report finds high unemployment among mentally ill in U.S.

The recent recession in the U.S. and the country’s slow recovery affects all sorts of people, including those living with mental illness. A new report finds that more than 80 percent of people with a serious mental illness were unemployed as of 2012.

Many people are unable to work because of a mental disorder. Depending on their circumstances, they may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income. These programs provide a safety net for people who otherwise may not be able to afford basic necessities for themselves and their families.

Other unemployed people have worked in the past, or want a job. They can work, as long as they get the proper mental health services.

But since the recession, those supports have “eroded,” according to the lead author of the unemployment report, which was released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Employment rates among mentally ill people were relatively low prior to the economic downturn, but once supportive services became scarce, the rate went even lower, the author said. By 2012, the report estimates, just 17.8 percent of mentally ill adults had a job.

As readers might expect, the report found different unemployment rates in each state. In Missouri, 89.1 percent of people with a mental illness were unemployed in 2012. That is the eighth-highest rate in the study. Maine had the highest rate at 92.6 percent.

NAMI hopes that economic improvement will create new employment opportunities, but the group also called for better assistance programs for job seekers with mental illness.

Source: UPI, “Study: 80 percent of adults with serious mental illness out of work,” Brooks Hays, July 10, 2014

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