At a time when forecasts are being made of the UK unemployment rate reaching 6.5% by the end of 2021, an additional 0.9 million people out of work when compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic, it makes things even harder for those with existing mental health problems to gain employment. Couple that with those with existing mental health problems more likely to be in those job roles hit hardest by the pandemic, such as hospitality, it's expected that the gap in employment rates between those with and those without mental health conditions is going to widen.

Only 37 per cent of those with mental health issues are in paid employment; for people with severe mental illness, it’s just 8% despite 70 – 90% wanting to work. This is why as an employment service working with those with mental health issues, we are urging employers to be progressive in their recruitment processes and cast their nets further afield to offer those with existing mental health problems job roles.

Is it time to start to think differently about mental health and employment?

The Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Employment service at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust has successfully supported over 200 people with long term mental illness into paid employment.

To bring that to life and help illustrate the impact a job offer can have on an individual is the story of Stephen. He had been unemployed for 15 years due to his severe anxiety; after working with Mel, his employment specialist at Bradford, to search for jobs, create a CV and practice interview techniques, he was offered a role in the retail sector and is now progressing in his career with the employer, completing further training and working towards a promotion.

Stephen said: "I am now more settled in work, and my anxiety has lowered considerably…. I feel a lot more confident in myself, and working has given me a sense of purpose. I feel very lucky to have obtained a job during the Covid-19 pandemic."

Feedback from employers is overwhelmingly positive: “On more than one occasion the Employment service has provided us with quick solutions to recruitment problems. They’ve helped us find strong, proactive employees who enjoy what they are doing.”

It's time to start thinking differently about our workforce, supporting those in our communities that might need it, and you never know what you might achieve together. Employment should be part of getting better, not be a result of getting better.