Stigma at the Workplace and the Vocational Recovery

Exploratory Study of the Relationship of People with Psychiatric Disabilities

Zlatka Russinova, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Project Purpose 

The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between stigma of mental illness at the workplace and the vocational recovery of persons with psychiatric disabilities. More specifically, the project focuses, on the one hand, on operationalizing the negative impact of stigma on mental health consumers’ capacity to obtain and sustain competitive employment, and, on the other hand, on the objective and subjective factors (i.e., supportive work environment, effective coping strategies, etc.) that minimize the interference of stigma with the vocational recovery of persons with psychiatric disabilities. In addition, the study explores the pivotal role of disclosure at the workplace in understanding the complex multi-faceted relationship between stigma and the vocational recovery among persons with serious mental illness whose disability is often invisible.

Project Background

Vocational recovery represents an important aspect of the overall recovery from serious mental illness (Anthony, 1993) and is defined as preserving, regaining, or acquiring competitive employment despite being affected by a disabling psychiatric condition (Russinova et al., 2002). Despite the negative impact serious mental illness has on people’s capacity to work competitively, an ongoing longitudinal study of sustained employment among people with serious mental illness (Russinova et al., 2002) has provided evidence that vocational recovery is feasible for persons with psychiatric disabilities. At the same time, stigma of mental illness has been identified as one of the major barriers to the recovery of this population that requires special research, clinical and public education efforts (Surgeon General, 1999; Perlick, 2001).

The Exploratory Study of the Relationship between Stigma at the Workplace and the Vocational Recovery of People with Psychiatric Disabilities seeks to explore the complex relationship between mental health consumers’ experiences of stigma and the process of their vocational recovery. The project represents a further expansion of our NIDRR funded longitudinal study of sustained employment that will deepen current knowledge about vocational recovery from serious mental illness.

Project Goals

The project will achieve the following goals:

Goal One: To study the negative impact of stigma on mental health consumers’ capacity to achieve and maintain vocational recovery.

Goal Two: To study the objective and subjective factors that minimizes the negative impact of stigma on the vocational recovery from serious mental illness.

Goal Three: To study the role of workplace disclosure in mediating the relationship between stigma and vocational recovery among persons with psychiatric disabilities.

Goal Four: To disseminate the results of the study to various vocational and psychosocial rehabilitation programs, self-help groups, the broad mental health community, employers, and the general public.

Information generated by this study is expected to expand existing knowledge about both the negative impact of stigma on the process of vocational recovery and about the factors that minimize this impact at the workplace. Such information is expected to provide the basis for the design of mental health and rehabilitation interventions that will enhance mental health consumers’ capacity to cope with work related stigma.

References

Russinova, Z., Wewiorski, N., Lyass, A., Rogers , E.S., & Massaro, J.M. (2002). Correlates of vocational recovery for persons with schizophrenia. International Review of Psychiatry, 14 (4), 303-311.

Ellison, M.L., Russinova, Z., MacDonald-Wilson, K., & Lyass, A. (2003). Patterns and correlates of workplace disclosure among professionals and managers with psychiatric conditions. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation,18 (1), 3-13.

Ellison, M.L., Russinova, Z., Massaro, J., Lyass, A. (in press). People with schizophrenia employed as professionals and managers: initial evidence and exploration. Schizophrenia Research.