Anti-discrimination, work and mental health
Currently in the UK, responsibility for the person considered to be mentally ill lies with the health services, working jointly with local authority Social Services Departments to provide community support. To modify this system, in order to allow the service user more responsibility for, and control of, her/his destiny, is a very considerable task that many lobbying groups and individuals are currently endeavouring to undertake. As Sayce (2000: 129) points out, attempts to achieve a user-led orientation in services, and ‘change-alliances’ between users and professionals, can be seen in terms of what she terms a ‘disability inclusion’ model. This is a civil rights based approach which promises, on the one hand, the ‘positive’ rights of fair opportunities, social adjustments and support and on the other ‘negative’ rights such as being free of unfair coercion. Of immediate, accessible interest in this respect, and offering the possibility of positive results, are the programmes funded by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF). These programmes offer either a range of vocational activity leading, if desired, to supported or open employment, or advise employers, and providers of education and training, on strategies to improve access for people who have experienced mental health problems. The MHF is a charity established in 1949 that works in the fields of mental
health and of learning disability. Through publications, conferences and events it promotes greater awareness and understanding of mental health problems and learning disabilities and aims to reduce stigma and prejudice. The MHF works closely with mental health service users and offers funding to support community projects and innovative research. In 1997 it established a Mental Health and Employment Programme. Six mental health and employment projects were identified and granted funding to develop their work. These projects all provide examples of how employment discrimination can be countered and I have selected two of them to discuss in particular detail. The first is a ‘self-provisioning’ ‘green’ project designed not to have a mental health label attached to it, and which was founded on the
basis of a user-‘green professional’ collaboration. The second is a project supporting people’s efforts to get back into paid employment after long absences from the labour market. The project is based in an area of high black and minority unemployment and disadvantage, and it thus addresses multiple forms of oppression.