According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 20% of American adults experience some form of mental illness (or psychiatric disability) on a yearly basis. Across the population, 5% of American adults live with a serious mental health condition such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or long-term recurring major depression. (Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness – Living With A Mental Health Condition [link: nami.org/Find-Support/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition]). For many individuals with psychiatric disabilities, work is key to their health and contributes to a sense of purpose and well-being. Thus, it is important that employers understand how to foster a mental health-friendly work culture. (Source: Office of Disability Employment Policy – Mental Health [link: dol.gov/odep/topics/Mental_Health.htm]) Unfortunately, due to media reports and lack of understanding, there is also a stigma attached to disclosing a psychiatric disability in the work place.
Supported employment professionals have an important role to play in educating employees with psychiatric disabilities about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), talking to employers, and bridging the gap between the employee and employer. We must prepare and learn how and when to disclose a disability, the pros and cons to disclosing, how to request reasonable accommodations on the job, the role of the supported employment professional in disclosure, and the responsibilities of the employee and employer under the ADA.
Ms. Williamson will also share her own story as a person who has a psychiatric disability and discuss how she learned to deal with the “elephant in the room.”