It’s difficult enough to get a job these days, but if you have physical and especially mental disabilities, it can be even tougher. Persons who have succumbed to depression or suicidal thoughts, or those with more straightforward disorders including dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia and others may be discarded despite their qualifications and experience. The Ministry of Health’s Mental Health Unit aims to change that, beginning with a briefing for persons who work with mental patients to re-integrate them back into society. Nurse Eleanor Bennett of the Mental Health Unit explains more about the program, and why a mental disability should not be a death sentence.
“The statistics will tell you that people with mental disabilities are among the group of people that are most unemployed or they suffer from quite a high rate of unemployment, and they face a lot of barriers. There can be personal barriers, there can be environmental, attitudinal barriers as it relates to them either finding work or going back to work after they have had a relapse. And often times, we find people, we hear their stories about when they go back to work, how the environment is so different and people treat them differently and that creates additional stress. So that’s just one of the things that contribute to them not being able to function well at work.”
On Wednesday the conference moves to San Ignacio where individuals with mental issues will be counseled through approaches to seeking jobs. Facilitator for the conference is Carey-Ann Clarke of Disability Aid Abroad, a Northern Ireland charity established to change the lives of people with disabilities living in developing countries.
“There’s a real issue around the employment of people mental health disabilities here in this country as well, and there’s a lot, because the country has signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. There’s a lot, that we can maybe share, on how to actually support that employment, and stuff. So what we’re trying to do is to talk about this job coaching role, to sit down and talk to the consumers about all of their circumstances, and then also for the job coach to get a very good understanding of the environment in which they’re working. So it will be basically around those [topics]. Also the job coach will be able to make an advocate between the employee and the employer as well. So this is the model we are bringing, and I believe it is fresh in Belize as well.”
When the Supportive Employment Program is fully implemented it is expected that businesses will be approached for their cooperation.