Thinking About Work


How might we think about our family culture in relation to work?

“Culture is central not peripheral to recovery” as cited by the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (PRA) in their principles of Multicultural Services. Culture is really central to the understanding of mental illnesses and to the overall treatment. (NCBI)
If your family member is a part of a racial, ethnic, religious or other minority, it is important that any cultural concerns related to work are expressed to the Employment Specialist and at times to the employer. For example, if the individual is part of an extended family which supports elders, his/her responsibilities to the elders in terms of time commitments and wages should be communicated to the employer. When there is strong focus on extended family or community, these values influence decisions about employment. In some families the culture may be more focused on the individual and self-determination so those values would come into play.
If the family has certain religious holidays or customs that are important to them, the family member would need to communicate with the employer about how s/he might participate in those customs. Some work environments would be unacceptable to a family because of cultural or religious values and these should be communicated as well.
In a family-owned business there may be expectations that the person be part of that business and the family would carve out the job for their family member. Other cultural considerations (or think of them as “layers” of culture) include the culture of unemployment in which persons with psychiatric disabilities live. Employment rates, already low, are getting worse for people with mental health conditions (23% in 2003 down to 17.8% in 2012) (SAMHSA). The other layer/s of culture are in the local business community (Sanders-Park). The challenge then becomes matching job seekers with their culture to the employment setting and its culture.

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How can I help my family member…