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Resources to help career professionals better understand schizophrenia

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Over the past decade, there has been a visible movement in Canada to raise awareness of mental health – its existence, its importance and ways to support it. According to Mental Health America, there are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. MHA lists schizophrenia as one of the most common, and yet “people with schizophrenia […] are six to seven times more likely to be unemployed than the general population,” according to defines schizophrenia as a chronic brain disorder that, when active, can display symptoms that include “delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, trouble with thinking and lack of motivation.” According to the Schizophrenia Society of Canada Foundation, “Research suggests that as many as 70 per cent of people living with schizophrenia would like to be engaged in competitive employment, but fewer than 15 per cent are actually employed.”

For people living with schizophrenia, work can provide a way to cope with and reduce symptoms (for example, by reducing isolation), an improved quality of life, a sense of accomplishment and an opportunity to socialize. Considering these benefits, and given the high levels of underemployment for this segment of the population, it’s important to address barriers to employment for jobseekers with schizophrenia.

The following resources can help career practitioners understand some of the symptoms and challenges experienced by people living with schizophrenia, and how to help them find meaningful work that it is a good fit for them.

Resources to help understand what schizophrenia is

These resources contain information about and experiences of mental illness that could be upsetting to some readers. Please take care while reading.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs support, you can call 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. You can also find other mental health support resources on the Government of Canada website.

Education (Schizophrenia Society of Canada Foundation) [Organization]

After finding out their son was living with schizophrenia, Bill Jefferies and his wife created the Schizophrenia Society of Canada Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping “improve the quality of life of people affected by schizophrenia and early psychosis.” This resource from their website provides a thorough overview of what schizophrenia is, how it can present (symptoms) and how it can affect various parts of a person’s life including employment.

Inside Schizophrenia podcast: FAQs about schizophrenia (PsychCentral) [Podcast]

In this episode, hosts Gabe Howard and Rachel Star Withers answer frequently asked questions related to schizophrenia. Withers shares her experience living with schizophrenia, including what it’s like to experience hallucinations and be on antipsychotics, and how schizophrenia affects her life. This episode also includes an interview with Whitney Yeager, who created The Sammy Project in honour of her son to help facilitate and encourage having conversations about mental illness.

Schizophrenia (American Psychiatric Association) [Organization]

As the self-proclaimed “leading psychiatric organization in the world,” and with more than 37,000 members who work in psychiatric fields and practise in more than 100 countries, the American Psychiatric Association is a knowledgeable resource when it comes to learning more about mental health. On the topic of schizophrenia, it covers the following: 

  • Definitions of related terms
  • Symptoms
  • Treatment
  • Rehabilitation and living with schizophrenia
  • FAQs
Resources to help understand the job search and career development experiences of individuals living with schizophrenia
Employment and education for people with mental illness (Canadian Mental Health Association) [Discussion paper]

The Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario and Centre for Addiction teamed up to present this discussion paper that underscores how doing work can help improve the quality of life of people living with mental conditions. The paper also explores barriers to employment and strategies for improving “educational and employment opportunities.” While the content of the paper is not specific to schizophrenia, the level of detail and depth it provides could be useful in helping career practitioners support clients with schizophrenia as they navigate opportunities for employment.

Holding down a job with schizophrenia (Living Well with Schizophrenia) [Video]

In this eye-opening video, a person living with schizoaffective disorder shares how it has affected her ability to keep a job long-term. “I think a lot of people who are dealing with chronic serial mental illnesses oftentimes hop around from job to job a lot,” she says. In sharing her experience, she helps show how symptoms can lead to serial job hopping, which can create instability and can make it challenging to establish a career, financial security and social connections. She also provides examples of what employers can do to create accommodating workplaces that support employees and their productivity.

Job hunting with schizophrenia (The Atlantic) [Article]

In this article, The Atlantic explores how beneficial work can be to someone living with schizophrenia – and that research reveals that most Americans living with schizophrenia want to have a job and believe it would benefit them, but don’t have work due to various challenges.

The article opens by sharing a real-life experience of someone who found that working helped him cope with symptoms of schizophrenia. The article also explores how challenging and important it is to find and create work opportunities that are a good fit for someone living with schizophrenia. Recognizing that everyone is different and schizophrenia manifests in different ways for different people, the article also briefly dives into how Frederick Morello, a job coach for people living with schizophrenia, has been able to help clients find meaningful work.

Schizophrenia and work: What kind of work can I do? (Living with Schizophrenia) [Article]

This article, based on the author’s experiences, aims to help people living with schizophrenia learn more about the type of work they would like to do. The author does this through a series of steps and questions that can also be applied to anyone looking to learn more about themselves in order to pursue work that is a good fit for them.

Strategies for working effectively with clients with disabilities (CareerWise) [Blog post]

In this blog post, career counsellor Malou Twynam shares actionable tips career practitioners can use to help support clients with disabilities in their career development. Twynam reflects on her first experience working with a client with schizophrenia, describing her nervousness and how she wondered if she would be able to help, and what she believes ultimately helped her client find work with their preferred employer.

Work and Wellbeing: A Job Guide for People with Mental Health Conditions (Joblist) [Guide]

While this resource is not specific to any particular mental health condition, it can be useful to clients living with schizophrenia and also to career practitioners who support them during their job search, with sections on:

  • Finding work that works for you
  • Debating disclosure: what to tell a prospective employer
  • Discussing mental health needs at work
Working when you have schizophrenia: Staying fulfilled and thriving (PsychCentral) [Article]

This article explores multiple strategies that can help people living with schizophrenia achieve their career goals. These tips are particularly aimed at helping jobseekers manage symptoms and choose work that is a good fit for them. There is also a section on resources — some of which apply outside of the United States — that provide support to jobseekers who need time off to support their health.

PsychCentral also provides a resource that describes symptoms of schizophrenia.

Working with schizophrenia: Experts’ views on barriers and pathways to employment and job retention (Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation) [Research]

Through interviews with multiple experts – including health-care professionals, employment specialists and caregivers – this 2014 research paper explores individual, attitudinal and structural barriers to employment. It concludes that an Individual Placement and Support model is the most effective for helping people with schizophrenia find employment, but that more work and research are required to implement it successfully.

Marisa Baratta is a writer and editor who lives in Ontario with her husband and their children. She loves writing, especially fiction that touches your heart, opens your mind, makes you laugh and inspires positive change. Her shelves are lined with short stories, poems and chapter books she wrote since she was five. She can often be found writing, reading, cooking, walking near trees or spending time with her loved ones.
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Marisa Baratta is a writer and editor who lives in Ontario with her husband and their children. She loves writing, especially fiction that touches your heart, opens your mind, makes you laugh and inspires positive change. Her shelves are lined with short stories, poems and chapter books she wrote since she was five. She can often be found writing, reading, cooking, walking near trees or spending time with her loved ones.
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