Cover image of Let's Talk Employment guide
Let’s Talk Employment
A Guide for Family Members of Individuals in Mental Health Recovery




Why Work?

Here are ten individuals who would like to tell you what work has meant to them.

“We Can Work.” New York Association for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS)


 When considering employment for persons in mental health recovery, it helps to start with the positive reasons for choosing employment. Employment helps to:

  • Add meaning to someone’s life
  • Provide opportunities to make own decisions & choices
  • Provide opportunities to move forward in self-determination
  • Decrease symptoms; Promote Skill building and leadership opportunities
  • Create opportunities to learn, grow and recover
  • Extend circle of natural supports
  • Reduce isolation/increase opportunities for socialization
  • Increase income (for better quality of life)
  • Contribute to the broader community
  • Generate hope by proving recovery is real
  • Role model for people living with mental health conditions
  • Mentor others with mental health issues on reentering the workforce
  • Promotes full community Inclusion


This Guide emphasizes that families can bring positive attitudes and serve as role models, which are two essential factors to vocational success.


Who should use this Guide?

This Guide is designed to help family members of unemployed people with mental health conditions remove barriers that often interfere with the ability to seek, obtain, or keep meaningful employment. Since many definitions of “family” exists for different people, the purpose of this Guide is to allow the person living with a mental health condition to determine who is considered “family” to them.


The user of the Guide could be a parent, sibling, adult child, grandparent, roommate, partner, relative, or friend. The common feature is that the person “helping” intentionally provide informational, emotional, or tangible support while the job seeker completes the actual work. The beneficiaries of this guide are the persons with mental health conditions who are open to receive the support of their loved ones to attain employment.


For the purpose of this Guide, we refer to persons with psychiatric disabilities in different terms, such as “your family member,” “persons in recovery,” “persons with mental health conditions,” or “job seekers.” We are including those who have serious psychiatric disability due to mood and/or thought problems.


These psychiatric disorders include serious depression and anxiety, psychotic disorders, as well trauma related functional issues. For the “job seekers,” we include all those who are of age to obtain employment, primarily those ages 18 and up, but we also may mention the value of high school employment and training supports which could occur earlier than age 18.


A treeFamilies most often are the ones who know the individual the best and want nothing more than for them to have a fulfilling and meaningful life, including employment and supportive relationships. Families also may be most knowledge-able about when it is important for their loved one to take a rest or time out from the stresses of work. The key is to try to keep things in balance and help the individual to go forward when she or he is ready and wants to take the next step.


Suggestions for use of this Guide

Use whatever portions of this Guide you feel are needed for your family situation. The Guide was designed to complement the “Repository of Employment and Vocational Recovery Resources” ( Share these two resources (the Guide and Repository) with other families that you might know who also have a member with a mental health condition. For those who are not familiar with the resources for vocational support, pay particular attention to SECTION 5 of this Guide – and to the links to resources that give a more complete description of each resource, such as Vocational Rehabilitation, IPS Supported Employment, Rehabilitation Clubhouses, etc.