People living with serious mental illness face profound barriers to employment. Their unemployment rate has been reported to range from 70-90%, depending on the severity of the disability.* Yet, productive work is recognized as being essential to promoting positive mental health and to supporting economic and social inclusion.
The "Working with the Whole Picture" initiative was facilitated by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ottawa Branch and was based on the photovoice method. Photovoice is a grass-roots, participatory research and social action process developed by Caroline Wang and Dr. Mary Anne Burris at the University of Michigan in 1992. Through photography and personal stories, photovoice allows people to define for themselves what is important and what needs to change.
To date, two "Working with the Whole Picture" projects have been completed, involving 19 photographers and producing 60 photos and narratives. Their work highlights a number of themes: barriers to work, discrimination and stigma, supports for work and mental health, disclosure of a mental illness, workplace accommodations and employment aspirations. The project intends to open a dialogue with the community, policy makers and employers about work opportunities for people with lived experiences of mental illness.
We invite you to explore the galleries, read the narratives, meet the photographers and hopefully take away a new or enriched perspective on employment issues.
* Canadian Mental Health Association, Routes to Work
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