Early intervention, gainful employment aid mental health


The job world is a difficult world to navigate. You graduated college and set out to make your mark on your career path but, after months of applying, hundreds of resumes sent out and multiple interviews, you still have not secured a job. Obtaining a job is difficult and requires a multitude of skill sets including a degree, strong references, exceptional communication skills, and a lot of luck and perseverance. An individual without any type of mental illness or substance dependence finds this difficult process stressful and cumbersome. The stress of this process can be multiplied many times over if the individual is living with a mental health problem. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prevents employers from discriminating against individuals with a mental illness. Still, studies have shown that individuals with mental illnesses have difficulties obtaining a job.

The toll of distress

A recent study, published in the May 2016 issue of Social Science & Medicine, examined employment patterns over a 12-year period and found that adolescents who had low self-esteem, anxiety or depression had extreme difficulties securing a job once they reached professional adulthood. The study was comprised of over 7,000 Americans from 16 to 20 years of age.

“Adolescents who were highly distressed at ages 16 to 20 were 32 percent more likely to be unemployed, and 26 percent more likely to be unemployed or out of the workforce in early adulthood. The trends held, even when comparing distressed to non-distressed siblings, suggesting that emotional problems carry a heavy penalty even among brothers and sisters from the same background,” according to a University of Stirling news article.

The 2008 recession created even more stress and depression among this group due to financial burdens and the high rate of joblessness. This study is important because it sheds light on mental health and how it can affect life skills such as obtaining a job. Employment is important to live financially independent lives, to develop interpersonal and communication skills, and to gain a sense of self-gratification. Unemployment, in itself, can create self-doubt and depression, leaving someone with mental illness in an even worse mental and emotional state. Unemployment not only can worsen mental health but, with all of the idle time, can also create drug abuse and increase crime rates. Nothing good comes from unemployment except landing a successful job.

Don’t wait to seek treatment

This compelling study sheds light on the important issue of educating young individuals about mental illness and the importance of seeking treatment at a young age. Waiting to seek treatment can impair the individual’s mental health for years to come, delaying employment and personal achievements. Seeking treatment at an early age can provide the tools to deal with emotional and mental struggles in years to come, preventing unemployment and the destruction of personal relationships.

“Investing in childhood and adolescent mental health services could have economic benefits including reducing population-level unemployment. Widening access to effective treatments for early life distress could lead to large economic returns by helping individuals into employment and increasing their lifetime earnings,” according to Mark Egan, a Ph.D. student at the University of Stirling and corresponding author of the study.

A therapeutic boarding school for adolescent males from age 12 to 17, White River Academy recognizes that experiential learning plays a vital role in behavioral health and well-being, so we incorporate it into our therapeutic approach to treating substance abuse, numerous mental health conditions including depression and anxiety, and co-occurring conditions. For more information, please call our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Kristen Fuller, M.D., enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of medicine. She is a physician and author, who also teaches, practices medicine in the urgent care setting and contributes to medicine board education. She is also an outdoor and dog enthusiast. 

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