Breaking down employment barriers for people with mental illness

Dr Melissa Petrakis and team.

Dr Melissa Petrakis and team.

A project led by Dr Melissa Petrakis of the Department of Social Work has been recognised at the St Vincent's Health Australia Innovation and Excellence Gala Awards.

Dr Petrakis’s team was awarded the Leaders in Catholic Healthcare award for its extensive work addressing the economic and social effects of mental illness. In addition to social and economic disadvantage, mental illness can affect employment opportunities.

The project, a joint effort between St Vincent’s Hospital (Melbourne), Mental Health Service and MI Fellowship Victoria, using the evidence-based Individualised Placement and Support (IPS) model, was designed to improve workforce participation rates for people with severe and persistent mental illness.

Dr Petraki praised others involved in the project, including partner organisations and Honours student Yolande Stirling.

"The award is for the evaluation I led, however it is actually in praise of seven years of excellence by case managers and medical staff across Hawthorn and Clarendon clinics, at St Vincent's Hospital (Melbourne), Mental Health Service, in their work with MI Fellowship," she said.

In the seven years since the program began, 46.3 per cent of program participants gained sustained employment. This compares favourably to the randomised control trial comprising Australian adult job seekers, in which 42.5 per cent have successfully found employment.

The program continues to provide valuable data insight to other Australian healthcare providers and employment organisations.

Read more about the awards.