Thinking About Work
How can we offer “nag-free” and ongoing support for work goals?
When the family offers nonjudgmental support for work goals and the same messages are given by team staff, the individual gets that positive expectation. This is perhaps the most important thing the family can do to help with a successful job experience. Sometimes families can hope even when the family member cannot feel very hopeful. They can, simply by being present to the individual, be a support and a reminder that s/he is a person first, not a diagnosis. Families can also help the individual to brainstorm problems or learn skills that make the work environment easier e.g. how to start a conversation. It is important to be cautious about the role of families at each stage of the employment journey as they can be a barrier to employment by adding to stress, by reinforcing stigma and through lack of understanding (Aldersey).
Family education programs, such as National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Family to Family program, or evidence-based Family Psychoeducation, available through many mental health providers around the U.S., can help to reduce family stress through better understanding of the impact of mental illness on the individual and on the family.