Engaging in meaningful work is an important part of many people’s lives, including those living with schizophrenia. Many people with schizophrenia can absolutely find a job and thrive in the workplace, and work across a variety of industries and positions. This is especially the case when they have the right supports in place.
Keep in mind that everyone with schizophrenia will have a different experience. Some people might have few difficulties or find that their symptoms only affect their ability to work in certain fields or positions, or to work for long hours. Others might need to take time off work entirely. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s best to speak to a mental health professional to get clear on what will be suitable for you.
While living and working with schizophrenia comes with some unique challenges, there are ways to navigate it more smoothly. Here are our top tips.
Focus on your strengths and values
It’s always helpful to think about your strengths and skills when considering work. Work out what you have experience and skills in and look for jobs that suit these. You can make a list of your best qualities and things you enjoy doing and then see if there are any jobs that match the two lists.
It’s also more likely that you’ll enjoy and thrive at work if it lines up with your values. Write down your top five values and then see if you can think of work that lines up with these.
Take care of your health first – always
Your mental and physical health should always be your first priority. It can be tempting to put work first, but without your health, everything else will be a lot more difficult. Seeing a mental health professional to learn about your triggers and symptoms will help you recognise your warning signs and get on top of them if you begin to get unwell.
Finding the right support team – people who will listen to and support you – can make all the difference in your recovery. Family, friends, peer supporters, psychiatrists, psychologist, doctors, and counsellors can help you know whether you are ready for work or not and support you if you are currently working.
Get professional employment support
There are support services available that are designed to help people living with schizophrenia, and other mental health challenges, with employment.
The Australian Government’s Disability Employment Services can help you look for and keep a job. This service helps people who have an injury, illness, or disability to find and keep a job, based on their capacity. Many people living with schizophrenia will be eligible for support through these services.
There are several Disability Employment Services providers in Australia. To find a provider, visit JobAccess.
Reframe your idea of ‘success’
Society often tells us that ‘success’ only looks a certain way – such as having a full-time or high-paying job. This just isn’t true. Defining what success looks for you (whether that includes working or not) is so important to living a fulfilling life.
Other hobbies and past times, such as volunteering or advocacy work are also valuable. If work is not suitable, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to be on disability or income support.
Know your rights
There are laws in Australia which protect people with schizophrenia from discrimination when they are looking for a job or working for an employer. The Disability Discrimination Act is there to protect you from discrimination in the workplace.
You also have a right to privacy and do not have to legally tell an employer about that you have schizophrenia, unless there is a risk of safety to you or others. However, it can sometimes be a good idea to talk about this with a manager.
Did you know your employer is legally required to create a safe and healthy work environment for you? This includes making reasonable adjustments to help you perform well at work. Some examples of these include working from home, flexibility with working hours or job-sharing.
Meaningful work can be a very positive part of your life if you decide it’s right for you. Getting professional support, taking care of your health first and finding a supportive employer will all help you find and keep a job.
Effective medical, community and psychological treatment is available, and a person who is living with schizophrenia can live a fulfilling life.
SANE offers a range of free support services for people over 18 years of age with complex mental health needs and their families and carers. Visit sane.org/get-support to choose the supports that work for you.
Our 24/7 professionally moderated Forums offer a safe, anonymous and supportive online community where you can connect with others through shared experience. Visit https://saneforums.org to get started.
If you or someone you know is at immediate risk, call 000 or visit your nearest hospital. For support with suicidal thoughts, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
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