Tue, Feb 24, 2009 - Page 2 News List

People with mental health problems face unemployment

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The unemployment problem is even more severe among people with mental health problems, civic groups and doctors said yesterday, with almost 66 percent of those afflicted unable to find a job in the past year.

For people with schizophrenia, the most important thing they hope medication can do for them is to “be able to go to work or school,” a survey by the Alliance for the Mentally Ill found.

The survey of schizophrenics and their families was conducted by the alliance’s centers nationwide and a total of 233 effective samples were collected out of the 300 surveys handed out.

“The survey showed that about 90 percent of schizophrenia patients live with their families or friends, and almost 70 percent of them are not in school or employed. We can imagine how much of a burden this puts on their families,” project director Eva Teng (滕西華) said.

“Twenty percent say they are not satisfied with their current medication,” Teng said.

The main reasons cited for dissatisfaction with medication was that the drugs “do not make me feel well” (50 percent), “affect daily activities” (37 percent), “prevent me from holding a job” (34 percent) and “affect my social life” (28 percent).

“Aside from hallucinations, schizophrenia patients also have difficulty registering facial expressions, lack motivation and have a tendency to avoid social engagements. These are often the reasons why many people with schizophrenia have difficulty finding employment or developing relationships,” said Chou Yuan-hwa (周元華), a psychiatrist at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

Although the unemployment problem nationwide has worsened, it is an even greater problem for the mentally ill, Teng said.

“About 20 to 30 percent of the mentally ill are [involuntarily] unemployed,” she said.

“If more doctors cared about their patients’ social skills instead of only prescribing medications, then more patients could become active members of society,” she said.

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