New report finds more than 80 percent of people with mental illness are unemployed

A new report released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness Thursday found that more than 80 percent of people with mental illness are unemployed.

In Missouri, the unemployment rate for those who are mentally ill is 89 percent and in Kansas it’s about 70 percent.

"We need to give these folks a little bit more help and then they can become more productive and they won’t be on disability or unemployed or in our jails or on our streets," Jennifer Boyden of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Kansas City said.

Studies show that most adults with mental illness want to work and can succeed with the right support, according to the report. As a result of negative stereotypes of mental illness many people are discouraged to look for work.

"Mental illness we often brush off as a character flaw. We all are affected by it. We need services all around," Boyden said.

John Roberts, 59, of Johnson County, has symptoms similar to schizophrenia. For years he found it difficult to keep a job. He is now a driver for the Johnson County Mental Health Center.  He transports other people with mental illnesses to and from work, and school.

"There's something about driving and something about getting around that I enjoy. It often energizes me when I drive. I enjoy my job not only for my self-esteem but the feeling of importance a feeling of being important in the community," Roberts said.

The Johnson County Mental Health vocational team provides clients with employment and career development services such as, job development, on-site job coaching and educational support.

According to the report there needs to be more services for training to help people feel like they have a purpose. 

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