Schizophrenia affects men and women from all backgrounds; in the UK, around 1 in 100 people experience an episode of schizophrenia at some point in their lives and once they receive a diagnosis, they may find work a challenge. If you have been employed in the past and are keen to get back to work or you are entering the workforce for the first time in your life following a diagnosis of schizophrenia, it is important to remain positive and to do all you can to boost your chances of success. Currently, around 13% of people living with schizophrenia in the UK are working, and there is no reason why you cannot be one of the people who work to raise this percentage.
Why is work important for people with schizophrenia?
Modern treatments for schizophrenia are effective, reducing the risk of relapse to around 10%. Usually, treatment involves medication as well as cognitive behavioural therapy, which aims to increase control over symptoms and decrease distress. Obtaining work is one way that distress can be reduced, with the majority of people surveyed reporting that having a job would improve their lives. Some people with schizophrenia have managed to obtain postgraduate degrees and hold high level posts, though it is also important to be realistic and to understand that employment is a feat that can be challenging (though not necessarily insurmountable).
What are the biggest challenges ahead for employees with schizophrenia?
Day tiredness is one big challenge for people with schizophrenia, since an alteration in their circadian rhythms can lead them to feel more tired during the day, and more alert at nighttime.
Sometimes, symptoms like low energy, morale, and depression, can make it difficult to arrive on time and complete all required tasks on a given day.
The stigma associated with schizophrenia can also be a stumbling block, yet as noted by one person surveyed by Sane.org.uk, letting employers know of the nature and manifestations of schizophrenia, is key: “It is important to convey the boundaries and limitations which are features of the disorder. Unfortunately, the nature of this illness is the reality of not being reliable or consistent.”
What strategies can help people with schizophrenia obtain employment?
Around 85.7% of people with schizophrenia feel that symptoms could be a barrier to finding and maintaining a job. Most also note that cross-agency support between specialists can help them build a strategy to help them find and keep a job. They additionally wish to feel more supported by health professionals with respect to employment related activities.
From a governmental perspective, important steps to aid those with schizophrenia enter the workforce include providing training (most people are diagnosed with this disorder between the ages of 15 and 35, and may not have had the time to complete further education), increasing financial support through a benefits system which takes into account the fluctuating nature of this condition, improved access to therapy, and individual placement and support.
People with schizophrenia can do their best to increase their chances of employment by pursuing educational opportunities and honing their job skills, undertaking voluntary work to experience working as part of a team, and working on interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution, communication, and adaptation. Meanwhile, skills such as organisation, time management, and punctuality should be honed to ensure that employment is maintained in the long term. To enhance punctuality, following a daily routine, regular exercise, a sound diet, and other important lifestyle changes should be considered.
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