Good work plays a central role in all people’s lives and is generally considered to be beneficial to health and well-being. In general, people with mental health conditions are less likely to be in employment than those without, particularly those with long-term and severe mental health problems.

Why is employment important?

Work as a social and health benefit

  • Provides a monetary reward – but also non-financial gains, including social identity and status, social contacts and support, a means of structuring and occupying time, it provides activity and involvement and a sense of personal achievement
  • Enhances quality of life
  • Promotes social inclusion, linking the individual to society
  • Unemployment is linked with premature death, development of mental health problems, increased use of mental health services, increased risk of suicide

Work as a rights issue

  • Article 23 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights: “everyone has a right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.”
  • Valuing people with disabilities includes promoting respect, self-determination, and empowerment 
  • Prejudice and discrimination is a major obstacle to people with mental health problems gaining work

Work as an economic issue

  • A large proportion of public money is spent on welfare benefits for the unemployed and almost 25% of invalidity payments are paid to people with mental health problems.
  • Further costs to society come in the form of loss of productivity due to absenteeism and presenteeism
  • Employment: The economic case - Centre for Mental Health 

We've promoted the value of work for people with mental health problems for many years. In 2002 we produced a Council Report on Employment Opportunities and Psychiatric Disability and this was later reviewed and included in the work of the Scoping Group on Social Inclusion.

In June 2013 we held an Employment roundtable to which experts and stakeholders were invited to discuss and contribute to the future work of the College in this area which resulted in our latest publication on Employment and Mental Health (pdf).

In 2012 a Royal College Special Interest Group (SIG) in Occupational Psychiatry was formed. This SIG brings together the work of other professional groups including the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, the Society for Occupational Medicine, the Royal College of General Practitioners, organisational and occupational psychologists, employment lawyers, the insurance industry, and HR managers.

Further information

Further information for clinicians can be found in our section on Work and Mental Health.