On-The-Job Support (OJS) Program for Individuals with Serious Mental Illness in Sustaining Their Open Employment

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Authors (including presenting author) :
Yiu YM(1), Chan YH(1), Lo WY(1), Chan KF(1)
Affiliation :
(1)Occupational Therapy Department, Kowloon Hospital, Hong Kong
Introduction :
Employment is critical for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI). It can provide them with financial independence, social inclusion and positive successful working experience. Other than neurocognitive functioning, recent researches had found that social cognition was one of the significant predictors of work outcome for clients with SMI. However, most clients had difficulty in job stabilization due to deficit in social cognition. In order to fill this service gap, OJS program was introduced to individuals with SMI to promote their social cognition and work retention in open employment.
Objectives :
(1)To facilitate clients with SMI and employers with effective communication at work. (2)To facilitate these clients to sustain their open employment for at least three months.
Methodology :
Since August 2018, employers in catering and retail industries were liaised to provide job vacancies. Participants who had motivation on job seeking and completed prevocational training were recruited from out-patient in Occupational Therapy Department. OJS program was provided after job matching. It contained two interviewing preparation sessions and continuity of care sessions (including workplace visits, phone supports and face-to-face job coaching) based on real employment context. The components of social cognition including affect recognition, theory-of-mind, emotional intelligent and attribution style were specifically incorporated into the program. Participants’ social cognition was enhanced through facilitating them to perceive employers’ comments and behaviors appropriately to prevent misunderstanding. They were also empowered to open discussion with their employers. Liaisons with employers and participants were conducted once in the first week and then at least once monthly until successful employment for three months. Qualitative feedback from participants and employers were collected through focused interviews.
Result & Outcome :
From August 2018 to January 2019, eight participants were recruited in this program. All attended job interviews successfully. They were unemployed at least two years except one had quitted school for half a year. Until January 2019, four participants still maintained their jobs ranging from one to four months. Another participant had sustained his job for 3 months but finally quitted it due to fair mental condition. With ongoing coaching, they were able to interpret social signals more objectively and thus communicated with colleagues more effectively. All employers reported that participants were able to cooperate with colleagues. To conclude, OJS program incorporated concepts of social cognitions had clinical significance for clients with SMI in sustaining their open employment. A longitudinal follow-up study on the employment sustainability of the participants is recommended.

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