“It’s a Big Family Here.” Becoming and Belonging in a Service Providing Employment‑Related Support for People with Mental Health Problems: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Nisha Chauhan, Dawn Leeming, John Wattis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The impact of employment for individuals with mental health problems is complex. However, research suggests that when support is provided for accessing employment and gaining roles and skills that are valued by others, a positive effect can be seen on recovery. Employment-related support can take many forms and there is a need for further research into the experience of accessing different kinds of services. The current paper examines the lived experience of 11 people participating in a UK social enterprise providing work experience, training, and skills development for those with mental health problems. Although 'sheltered', the organisational ethos strongly emphasised service-user empowerment, co-production, equality with staff, provision of valued social roles and person-centred support. Phenomenological analysis revealed that participants valued a sense of belonging and authentic relationships within the service, whilst being given the opportunity to rediscover an identity that may have been lost because of their mental health problem. However, participants also discussed how, although the service improved their self-value, some feared the ‘real world’ outside of the service and were unsure whether they would be met with the same support. Tensions between field dominant approaches in supported employment and the experiences and values of the participants are explored. We argue that the findings highlight the importance of a nurturing working environment and the value for recovery of a range of meaningful roles, beyond competitive employment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalCommunity Mental Health Journal
Early online date9 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Apr 2021

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