‘Factors like un/underemployment and job insecurity along with housing insecurity, adverse early life experiences and discrimination and social exclusion all have an impact on our health…and not a positive one!’ Ruth S. Shim, MD, MPH, Vice Chair, Education and Faculty Development, Lenox Hill Hospital Department of Psychiatry

Having the experience of using one’s talents in the workplace, demonstrating one’s ability to contribute within an organization and building that confidence that comes with a sense of independence all go a long way for an individual’s recovery and health!

Many dedicated professionals working within the Mental Health Association movement recognize the importance of supporting the efforts of individuals with psychiatric disabilities to enter/re-enter the workplace!

Getting out into the field, approaching and interacting with employers/businesses and “selling” a person’s strengths and talents however ARE NOT TYPICAL HUMAN SERVICE WORKER ROLES OR RESPONSIBILITIES…and usually get the short end of the stick.

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending a Business Appreciation & Networking Breakfast at the Mental Health Association of Nassau County.  Ten businesses/employers attended.  And just several months earlier, thirty-six employers participated in a Job Fair, organized by PROS Employment Specialist of the MHA of Nassau County Jason Schaefer, M.A., LP-MHC.

I asked Jason what was it that contributed to his success in engaging employers.  His reply:  Polite persistence is my secret!”

But it was much more than that!  Underlying that polite persistence:  Jason gets that essential link between strong employer relationships and capacity to successfully connect folks to the workplace.   Jason consistently reaches out into the business community though it sometimes stretches his comfort level.  It is that wholehearted belief in the importance of folks finding their place in the work world that sustains his efforts. 

For all of us, whether service provider or peer (or both), defining ourselves in terms of those roles that we all cherish – worker, parent/family member or contributing community member – is what gives our lives meaning and significantly impacts our health.

– Marsha Lazarus, Workforce Development Director

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