Supporting Employment for our Members
Research shows that meaningful work can reduce symptoms of mental illness, decrease hospitalizations, and increase self-esteem for people with mental health conditions. The staff with Thresholds’ Employment Services Program work hard to help our clients achieve steady work in mainstream, competitive jobs – even amidst a global pandemic and economic upheaval.
Jacob Payton, an Employment Specialist at Thresholds in Woodstock, Illinois, shares how he’s adapted his work in light of the pandemic:
I support my clients’ health and lives, while giving them the skills they need to handle things on their own. I help my clients learn about their barriers to work and then we try to come up with ways for them to overcome those barriers, either through coping skills, new medications, or finding jobs that they can do effectively even when they’re experiencing symptoms. I also help clients manage anxiety around looking for jobs, and work with employers to provide accommodations.
Before the pandemic, I would meet with three to four clients each day out in the community, usually at libraries or their homes. Now I do a lot of phone or Zoom calls with clients, and work remotely with the clients’ workplace to help set up reasonable work accommodations.
Our clients definitely still want to work, despite the risks, though many are choosing gig economy or remote work. One big challenge is that I can’t physically go into client workplaces to talk to managers the way I used to. However, I’ve seen a lot of managers step up to the plate and really been there for their employees who need specific support.
One client was struggling with memory problems at work related to her illness and medication. The manager printed out instructions and reminders for her job and posted them all over the workplace. Another client had panic attacks and I helped the manager make a room available where the client could go and manage their symptoms.
We want our clients to find steady jobs that meet them where they’re at. If we need to do more of that remotely, that’s what we’ll do, because work can be such a critical component of our clients’ recovery.My job is to help managers understand that these accommodations help clients do their job effectively and meaningfully. They become very loyal, dependable workers that are an asset to their employers, and also develop more confidence and pride in themselves.
Interested in making a difference like Jacob? Check out our open positions on the Thresholds job board!