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2008 Conference Archive
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Life's Labours Lost - A study of the experiences of people who lost their occupation following mental health problems (poster presentation)

Ruth Sayers, Strategies for Working Group
Co-presenter(s): Rosie Davies


A MHF grant of £2500 enabled ten Bristol people who used mental health services to become researchers. We developed a study of a the effects of losing an occupation (work or study) following mental health problems on people's lives,(identity, status, self-esteem, sense of purpose, future expectations) and to explore strategies they used to recover and re-create meaning in their lives. We reflected on our own experiences to devise an in-depth open questionnaire (35 Qs). Of 56 respondents 66% were professionals. Interviews yielded 3 case studies. Analysis showed that occupational loss had a severe impact - a bereavement rarely recognised by professionals. Most had unsuccessfully tried to regain work; this could reinforce debilitation. Some resorted to voluntary or low paid work to reduce stress and benefit problems. Many self-defined as having no occupation, often many years after the loss. Most people valued occupation, and wanted support to establish an ordinary and inclusive life. Most support services ignored occupation, or were patronising, inaccessible or discouraging. Hopelessness, stigmatisation and fears about Benefits were significant in preventing people from moving forward. Outcomes Since completing and disseminating the study, the team have worked individually and together on various related projects: developing and leading training on occupational issues for professionals; writing for publication; linking with other projects (Social Exclusion Unit, EQUAL in Sweden); developing local services towards social inclusive practice. We would like to do a follow up study on how people have got on since 2003, and look at new options for creating meaningful occupation and / or employment. Most team members now work, some in research. A current lottery grant is enabling S4W to develop a wildlife garden at Central Bristol CMHT, and to research the effects of this project on mental wellbeing of staff, clients & the community. This research will be completed during the summer of 2008.

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