The Benefits of Employing People with a Mental Health Disability

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Research Summary


Vocational rehabilitation counselors who present factual information to employers serve as advocates for job seekers with mental health disabilities. The employment of people with mental health experiences is low worldwide. Even as mental health has become a part of the national discussion in the United States, stigma and discrimination still remain. This study looks at the employment of people with a mental health disability and reveals the many benefits to the employers who hire them.

Key Findings

  • Employer views that people with a mental health disability are “dangerous” or “unpredictable” reflects the general views of society overall.
  • Many employees with mental health experiences do not disclose their disability to employers for fear of the repercussions.
  • Low-level or entry jobs are often the only jobs available to individuals who disclose a mental health disability prior to employment offers.
  • Many employers view individuals with mental health experiences as frightening, consider them more aggressive and threatening, believe them to be incompetent, and think these employees require more supervision.
  • Employers are still reluctant to hire individuals with a mental health disability despite the known benefits of hiring a person with a disability.

Put It Into Practice

Tips and tools to help you apply best practices at work.

    • Arrange for employers to meet face-to-face with people who have a mental health disability to dispel myths and reduce stigma.
    • Provide anti-stigma programs that show employers there is value in hiring people with mental health experiences.
    • Help employers understand that people with a mental health disability can be competitive and successful if afforded the opportunity.
    • Explain that many accommodations for employees with a mental health disability cost little or nothing to the employer.
    • Disclose that overall performance of employees with a mental health disability was found to be close to equal to that of employees without a disability.
    • Inform employers of the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities including:
      • Improvement in corporate climate linked to workplace modifications for employees with disabilities.
      • Higher productivity of all employees, with and without disabilities, due to improved relationships within the work environment.
      • Higher work standards throughout the workplace related to the overall productivity and reliability of employees with mental health experiences.

More about this Research

Researchers examined 25 years of research focused on the employment of people with mental health disabilities, employer attitudes toward people with mental health experiences, and recommendations for vocational rehabilitation specialists.

Learn More

Papakonstantinou, D. (2018). Why should employers be interested in hiring people with mental illness? A review for occupational therapists. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 49 (2), 217-226.