Understanding Workplace and Legal Problems When You Have Schizophrenia
For most people, work is an important part of their lives and identities. Having a job helps you feel better about yourself and your future. It gives you a chance to connect with others. Work also provides needed income. And it gives you a chance to learn and grow as a person.
Employment and stigma
Because of the stigma around mental health problems, some employers may have concerns about hiring you. Therefore, it is wise to think about the benefits and the risks of telling an employer about your mental health problem. For example, under the federal “Americans With Disabilities Act” you have a legal right to certain reasonable accommodations to your mental health or other disability to make it possible for you to do your job. However, to exercise this right you have to tell your employer about your illness and what accommodations you need. Sometimes people have concerns that doing so could lead to stigma and discrimination. Others are not sure whether they need any job accommodations. For example, let’s say you need to leave in the middle of the day for a mental health appointment. Your employer could have a policy allowing people to use sick leave for doctor’s appointments, or you could ask for an accommodation.
Either way, making decisions about what to disclose at work can be complicated. Ask for advice and support from your mental healthcare team and others you trust. They can help you see the possible benefits and downsides of what to disclose about your mental health problem to an employer.
If you have a job already, you may feel stressed or nervous at work. Or you may be worn out or tired. Many people deal with workplace stress. Getting treatment for your symptoms and taking good care of yourself in other ways will help improve your ability to work.
Most communities have resources, such as local job services, that can help you find a job and be successful at it. Community services include:
Job skills training. This includes help getting ready for interviews, preparing resumes, and learning other skills needed to find work.
Learn about tax incentive programs. This may help you get extra money.
On-the-job training placement. This helps you get work experience.
Many cities have a local job service, employment office, or state health and welfare office. These places can help you get work or find a place to live. You can find information about these services in the phone book or on the Internet.
Your healthcare provider or a local church also may be able to connect you with services that can help. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a social worker or case manager who can help you find a place to live. You may be able to find the training and support you need to get and keep a job. You may also find programs through your mental healthcare team.
Substance abuse may make your life harder. This is common with some mental health problems. If you have this problem, talk with your healthcare provider about getting drug or alcohol treatment.
People with mental health problems have the same rights as other citizens. For example, you have the right to vote and to take part in legal agreements, such as marriage, divorce, and business ventures. Most states and many healthcare groups have a bill of rights specifically about mental health problems. These rights include the right to privacy (or confidentiality) with respect to your illness and treatment plan. You also have the right to treatment that places the fewest possible restrictions on your lifestyle.
People with mental health problems sometimes have symptoms that make decision-making hard. It's good to prepare legal documents to help in case this happens. It’s best to do this when you have few or no symptoms. You may want to have the following:
Advance directive. An advance directive tells your wishes for treatment when you have severe symptoms.
Durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney for healthcare says who will be in charge of making decisions when you are not able to make them for yourself. This document can be very helpful if your symptoms become so bad that you need someone you trust to make treatment decisions for you.
Power of attorney. A power of attorney lets you choose someone to help you deal with money if your symptoms keep you from doing this on your own. Find someone you trust to co-sign financial documents, such as credit card applications or mortgages. This will help you to protect yourself financially while you are having symptoms.