Schizophrenia is a mental illness that typically starts to affect people between the ages of 16 and 30, the prime years for preparing for and starting a career. Unfortunately, symptoms like delusions, reduced motivation, and trouble concentrating can make finding the right job difficult.
A combination of psychological treatments and medication can help control schizophrenia symptoms, improving success at school, at work, and in relationships. In addition, getting a job that plays to your strengths and offers some flexibility can give you the best chance of success. Here are some suggestions to consider in your job search if you’re living with schizophrenia.
Working as a librarian or library assistant provides you the chance to work independently in a quiet work environment. Libraries may offer part-time and full-time positions, letting you achieve a better work-life balance. Since libraries offer community programs, your job may include managing social-media messaging, assisting with events, and filing and organizing library resources.
Data entry clerks focus on organizing and inputting data into computer systems. This job typically requires attention to detail and accuracy. It doesn’t involve much social interaction or decision-making. The structured and repetitive nature of data entry tasks may be well suited for those with schizophrenia, bringing more routine and structure to daily life.
Some data entry jobs can be done remotely, giving you added flexibility. Other jobs that require computer-based skills, like coding or graphic design, may offer a similarly quiet and independent atmosphere.
Laboratory technicians work in controlled environments, conducting scientific experiments and tests. This job demands precision and adherence to protocols. Compared to other job settings, working in a lab offers a solitary environment with minimal social interactions. You may find lab jobs available at a local hospital or university. These large organizations may also provide health benefits and other supportive resources for employees that can be beneficial for people with schizophrenia.
Peer support specialists have personal experience with mental health conditions, including schizophrenia. They use their recovery journey to support others facing similar challenges. This role often involves providing emotional support, sharing coping strategies, and assisting in treatment planning.
The peer support model fosters empathy and understanding, creating a safe space to connect with others. You may be responsible for running support groups, working with people one on one, and helping families understand what their loved one is going through. This type of work can be empowering for someone with schizophrenia because it gives you a chance to learn more about your condition while helping others.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people, including those with mental health conditions like schizophrenia. The ADA outlaws employers from discriminating against qualified candidates with disabilities during recruitment, hiring, training, job assignments, promotions, and more.
Under the ADA, employers must offer reasonable accommodations to help people with disabilities to do their jobs effectively. Reasonable accommodations can vary but may include:
Keep in mind that the law doesn’t require your job to make accommodations that would cause “undue hardship” for the employer. That’s why it’s important to collaborate with your employer to find solutions that work for you and for them.
Employment isn’t always the best option for everyone with schizophrenia. Although many people with schizophrenia find strategies to manage their symptoms (and some even go into complete remission), others experience worsening symptoms over time. Work may involve too many stressful situations that set people with schizophrenia or other mental health conditions back. In addition, the stigma of having a serious mental illness can affect your employment options when living with schizophrenia.
Although the prospect of sharing your mental health issues with your employer may be stressful, some members of MyDepressionTeam have had positive experiences disclosing their condition.
“My manager was quite supportive. I work in admin with the government, and I was surprised and am grateful that he listened and then asked me what I needed,” shared one member.
However, if your employer isn’t supportive, it may be time to seek other options. Another member offered encouraging words for those who struggle to maintain a job: “Just do the best you can. You need to focus on getting better overall. You can always get another job if this one doesn’t work out, but you can’t get another brain or another body. I know money is going to be an issue if you don’t focus on work, but in the long run, it’s going to be a lot worse if you haven’t improved mentally rather than financially.”
With the guidance of your health care provider and a social worker, you can decide if working is right for you at this time. It’s OK to take a break from employment if you need to focus on other aspects of life, like securing your housing and other basic needs. Find out if you qualify for Social Security or disability benefits to help you get through times of unemployment. Other members of MyDepressionTeam share how mental health struggles affect their employment status.
People without schizophrenia also may be able to relate to your situation. “My bipolar disorder, along with chronic migraines, caused me to have great struggles with employment,” explained one member. “My resume looks like Swiss cheese. I was let go from jobs because of absences. After 25 years in the workforce, the majority as a teacher, I have applied for disability. Getting a job isn’t the problem. … It’s being able to keep it. At my last job, I was taking anywhere from two to 10 days a month off from calling out due to depression or migraine.”
If your current job isn’t working out, life may be pulling you in a new direction. The right job may come along through a small business or supported employment arrangement that suits your needs. Or, you may find that working just isn’t for you. In the meantime, finding hobbies you enjoy, volunteering, and increasing your skills through job training can open you up to new opportunities and experiences.
On MyDepressionTeam — the social network for people with mental health disorders and their loved ones — more than 144,000 members from around the world come together to ask questions, offer support and advice, and connect with others who understand life with depression, schizophrenia, and other mental health issues.
How do your symptoms of schizophrenia impact the type of jobs you pursue? If you’re looking for employment, what’s your ideal work environment? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a discussion on your Activities page.