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Physical conditions more of a barrier to job than mental illness

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A recent study completed at Rutgers University shows just how urgent the need is for integrated physical health and mental health care for those who suffered from chronic mental illness conditions.

The study’s lead author said, “Without addressing physical health problems, people with serious mental illness will continue to experience more health problems and diseases and do not seek employment that could improve their quality of life.”

Three million or so of U.S. adults who suffer from a serious mental illness depend on financial assistance from the government like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In total, 11.4 million adults suffer from mental illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia or anxiety. Nearly 90% are not working.

One of the difficulty that these unemployed individuals have is that they have less access to health care. Other concerns include increases in anxiety, depression, stress and cardiovascular disease due to being unemployed.

The study focused on 162 people who were living in “supportive housing programs” and suffering from serious mental illness. A little over one-quarter had a college degree. Nearly half had their high school diploma. Sixty percent hadn’t worked in the last five years; however, every last one said they wanted to find a job.

Each month, almost all of the study participants reported that it was their physical health issues, such as obesity, chronic pain or diabetes, that kept them from looking for work — not their mental disorders.

Previous studies have shown that those who suffer from serious mental illness could live 25 years less than people without such disorders. Not only do people with mental illness tend to have their physical health conditions under-treated or overlooked, but having a job can promote a positive self-image and give them better access to quality health care.

Many who qualify for SSI or SSDI are allowed to bring in a specific amount of money every month through wages. A job isn’t always a barrier to disability benefits. If you have questions about applying for either program and what it might mean for your current employment or your search for employment, an experienced attorney can provide the answers and guidance you need.

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