Let’s Talk Employment
A Guide for Family Members of Individuals in Mental Health Recovery
What Questions Should I Ask?
- If my family member chooses to disclose a mental health condition, when is the best time to do it?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of disclosure?
What You Should Know
The issue of disclosure of disability is vital to deal with very early in the “considering work” phase due to the overwhelming problems of discrimination against people with mental health conditions. Since these concerns tend to compound when factors, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc., intersect with a disability, it is important that the job seeker review with an informed person, such as the Employment Specialist, the pros and cons of disclosure, the best times for disclosure, and the job seeker’s personal decision about disclosure based on this information. Then it is recommended that the job seeker develop a Disclosure Plan which details the decision to disclosure.
If the decision to disclose is made, then the plan should describe who will disclose to the employer, what will be disclosed (e.g., the person has a disability), and when/how the disclosure will occur. Keep in mind that when someone works with an Employment Specialist or Rehabilitation Counselor who is working with an employer on the job match, this is an automatic disclosure of a disability (although the details of the disability do not need to be disclosed). The exception is that if the professional and the job seeker agree that they will apply on their own with no disclosure, there is no direct contract by the Employment Specialist on behalf of that individual.
The Employment Specialist or Rehabilitation Counselor would review with the job seeker the pros and cons of disclosure for the specific employer and the specific job. Your family member may agree to disclose for one employer and not for another. For example, if they apply for an entry level job they might decide to disclose while they might decide not to when applying for a skilled or managerial job. All of this should be, to the extent possible, contained in the Disclosure Plan. On the next page is an example of a Disclosure Plan. (Job seekers or Employment Specialists can design their own if needed.)
WHO: Employment Specialist, Julian Burston
WHEN: The automatic disclosure comes at first contact when Julian, the Employment Specialist, proposes the job seeker to the employer.The next stage of disclosure will happen if Tamara is hired by the employer. At the time of hiring, or after hiring, she will let the employer know that she may need accommodations. The timing of this will depend on how Tamara sees the opportunity and her insight about the situation.
NEEDS: Tamara’s functional needs are:
Needs help with focus when first beginning new tasks; tools to increase concentration and organization; supportive and flexible work environment to minimize stress; support for attending treatment. This will be explained by Tamara (and Employment Specialist, if needed). She will request:
- Flexible hours in which to attend treatment sessions twice per month.
- Keeping a water bottle at her work station in case she needs to hydrate several times per day.
- Weekly supervision instead of every two weeks to review performance and find ways to improve and resolve problems and to provide positive feedback when it is warranted.
- Development of a chart of duties broken down into steps to help with focus.
- Written directions for any computers or other electronic equipment and how to access data or material.
- Headphones to block out background noise.
This plan was developed and accepted by:
Disclosing Your Disability to an Employer, Boston University, Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation