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• How Does GVS Help Employers?

• People with Mental Health Disabilities are Employable

• Why Hire People with Mental Health Disabilities?

• Mental Health in the Workplace Day to Day

• What is a Mental Health Disability?

• The Myths and the Facts

How Does GVS Help Employers?

Gastown Vocational Services was established in 1991 to provide vocational assessment, work readiness skill training programs, work experience placements and supportive employment services to individuals with mental health disabilities.  The broad goal is to improve the individual’s vocational/employment skills, strengths and supports, and to assist each person to become vocationally and functionally independent in the community.  Gastown Vocational Services offers support to individuals to achieve their employment and training goals.

GVS offers employers extensive experience in dealing with employee relations in the workplace.  We provide employers with the following:

  • Clients who are motivated to work
  • Job site support/coaching as required
  • WCB Coverage for training/work placements
  • Training on the job reimbursement or job related equipment / supplies / clothing
  • Regular goal-setting meetings as needed
  • Disability information
  • Return to work and employment crisis coaching
  • Ongoing support and monitoring of clients

GVS employment services include job coaches job developers who provide:

GVS provides support to both client and employer through:

  • Assistance determining if job is appropriate
  • Workplace analysis and suitability
  • Support through work experience placements to determine if the person matches the job
  • Follow up support of all clients in any vocational placement and training
  • Exploration and introduction of job accommodations
  • Evaluation of skills and onsite facilitation between employer and employee
  • Work experience placements
  • Volunteer placements
  • Job shadowing
  • Work Trials
  • Job mentoring
  • Education exploration and placement
  • Paid employment – part-time and full-time
  • Vocational and career planning and support

People with Mental Health Disabilities are Employable

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Working with People with Mental Health Disabilities

There are more than 3 million people with disabilities in Canada.  Many people with disabilities are unemployed but could work if they had the opportunity.

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Why Hire People with Mental Health Disabilities?

One in five people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year.  There are more than 282,542 people (2001-2002) in BC with a mental disability.

Mental health disabilities are more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease.

People with mental health disabilities have a variety of educational and vocational backgrounds including post-secondary training, previous paid positions and volunteer work.

Work has tremendous benefits for people with mental health disabilities and reduces mental health care costs.  People with mental health disabilities do want to work and are very capable of employment that requires intelligence and creativity.  Workers with mental health problems, whether alone or in combination with physical illness, are more likely to go to work even if they are not feeling well, and had more days when they had to exert required greater effort to function at work.

Stigma and lack of awareness are main reasons why people with mental health disabilities are seldom likely to find work.

Employers hire people with mental health disabilities for a number of reasons.  The primary reason is the same reason they hire anyone else – in order to get the services of a good employee.  Additionally, employers may hire an individual with mental health disabilities because they appreciate the consultation and support that an agency offers and because they believe it is the right thing to do.  Hiring a person with a disability can increase an employer’s ability to attract and retain employees.

In the spirit of cooperation, accommodations in the workplace are supportive adaptations to the work schedules, environment, job tasks, etc.  They are not designed to provide preferential treatment but to assist individuals with a disability to perform their job.  Possible accommodations can be implemented such as flexible work schedules, job creation and job carving.

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Mental Health in the Workplace Day to Day
What kind of impact will mental health employees have on the rest of the staff?

  • Research shows that overall there is a definite rise in staff morale when people with disabilities are integrated into a workplace
  • It has been conclusively shown that on average people with a disability are more loyal, dependable and productive than their non-disabled colleagues, and that they work more safely.  Staff retention is 72% higher, saving millions of dollars in recruitment and training costs
  • There is a distinct positive effect on staff morale

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What is a Mental Health Disability?

Major or clinical depression is a serious, debilitating disability that includes severe depressed mood, loss of interest, or inability to experience pleasure in things that the depressed person usually enjoys. At any given time, almost 3 million Canadians have serious depression, but less than 1/3 seek help. www.depressioncenter.net,www.mooddisorderscanada.ca

Bi-polar disorder is characterized by the alternation of manic and depressive states. Mania often begins with a heightened sense of pleasure, confidence and energy. It can escalate to ‘out of character’ behaviour, and in some cases, psychosis. It is estimated that between 1- 2 % of the adult population will experience a bipolar disorder. www.mooddisorderscanada.ca

Schizophrenia is a treatable biochemical brain disorder with symptoms including disorganized thinking, delusions, hallucinations, and changes in emotions and behaviour. Schizophrenia affects 1 on 100 people. www.schizophrenia.ca

Anxiety disorders involve intense and prolonged feelings of fear and distress that occur out of proportion to the actual threat or danger.  These feelings of fear and distress interfere with normal daily functioning. Anxiety disorders affect 12% of the population, causing mild to severe impairment.

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The Myths and The Facts


Mental health disabilities are not true medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes. People who have a mental health disability are just crazy.


Research shows there are genetic and biological causes for mental health disabilities, and they can be treated effectively.  They are legitimate medical issues and are considered a disability.  Mental health disabilities do not affect a person’s IQ or appearance so it is hard to identify, but they are more common than cancer, diabetes and heart disease.


You should be concerned about someone with mental health disability having the potential for violence.


Contrary to media focus, individuals with a mental health disability are no more prone to violence than the general public, and in fact, are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.


Depression results from a personality weakness or character flaw, and people who are depressed could just snap out of it if they tried hard enough.


Depression has nothing to do with being lazy or weak. It results from changes in brain chemistry or brain function, and medication and/or psychotherapy often help people recover.


Schizophrenia means split personality, and there is no way to control it.


Schizophrenia is often confused with multiple personality disorder. Actually, schizophrenia is a brain disorder and symptoms range from social withdrawal to hallucinations and delusions. Medication has helped many of these individuals to lead fulfilling, productive lives.


Stigma and lack of awareness are the main reasons
individuals with a mental health disability do not find employment.
1 in 5 individuals will experience some kind of mental health problem this year.
Someone you know is being affected by a mental health disability right now.

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Sierra Legal Defence Society


288 - 2750 East Hastings (Goldcorp Mental Health Centre) • Vancouver, BC • V5K 1Z9
Telephone: 604-675-2535 • Fax: 604-683-5099

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