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Work, Employment and Volunteering

"Being a volunteer is part of my recovery, it means I do something that is valued"

Some say that what we do during the day is at the centre of our lives. For many of us work, might be looking after children, elderly relatives, voluntary work or paid employment.

Some people have said that work gives them a sense of identify, as well as a purpose and meaning to their daily lives. Other benefits could be increased personal satisfaction, self-esteem, confidence, skills and opportunities to meet people and develop friendships. (Measuring what Matters, June 2009).

Many people with mental health conditions want to work and for those who do finding the right kind of support can be the key to making this happen (please click here for relevant links).









Local organisations such as Jobcentre Plus and the Richmond Fellowship offer specialist services and support people in gaining employment or accessing further learning opportunities. These and other organisations can help you to look at what is right for you (please click here for more information).

Local mental health services can also help you find employment and give you ongoing support. Through working with other agencies, local statutory agencies and the voluntary and community sector (please click here for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust website).

What to do?

Consider the options

  • Work full or part time
  • Work placements with local employers to gain experience in the work place
  • Education and training to gain and refresh skills and knowledge
  • Volunteering often with voluntary groups and agencies within the community

How to decide

  • Talk to other people on both sides of the fence - people who have returned to work after mental health issues and those who have not
  • Think about how much you enjoyed your work in the past
  • Keep your work options open as long as possible - never cut off a possibility until you absolutely have to
  • Remember, whether you decide to stay on benefits or go to work, your decision isn't final
  • Not working doesn't mean a life of frustration with no opportunities for fulfilment.
    What matters is being realistic about the time and energy you have to offer - and not trying to do everything

Things to consider

  • Think about what support you may need, it may help to discuss this with others. Remember to contact specialist’s services and organisations to identify what help is available. (Refer to local services links) They can then sign post you to the most appropriate service to meet your needs if they cannot help you directly
  • Your work/life balance – how much time can you give to work without causing additional stress at home. Think about travel arrangements, possible child care and other commitments that you may have
  • What kind of work do you want to consider, what skills and interests do you have, what previous experience you have

You should also think about the pros and cons of working versus staying at home:

Pros of working
Cons of working
  • contribute to a higher family income keep your career going
  • enjoy the intellectual challenges and social interaction of working life
  • feel valued in a work environment
  • experience improved self-esteem
  • find your mental health improves
  • not get to spend as much time with your friends and family
  • be more tired
  • find work too stressful

If you do find work too stressful remember that people with mental health needs are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and that you are entitled to ask for reasonable adjustments to be made including looking at your job description, part time working, etc.


Measuring what matters. Policy (2009) Key indicators for the development of evidence-based employment services. Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

Doing what works. Briefing 37 (2009) Individual placement and support into employment. Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

Journey to Recovery (2001). Department of Health. London. guidence/DH_4002700

Vocational services for people with severe mental health problems: Commissioning guidance. (2006) Department of Health.

Social Exclusion Unit (2004) Mental Health and Social Exclusion. London: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Rinaldi, M., Perkins, R., Glynn, E., Montibeller, T., Clenaghan, M. & Rutherford, J. (2008)
Individual placement and support: from research to practice. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, vol. 13, 50-60.

Last revised 14 November 2009



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