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Helping Individuals with Mental Illnesses Earn Income

July 24, 2013

Government benefits are available to people with mental illness. Tax credits and community programs are intended to supplement income but is not enough money to live on. Unfortunately, another frustration for people with mental illness is unemployment. More often than not, a mental illness conflicts with being gainfully employed. In some cases an individual is unable to work as a result of his or her condition.


– Are you aware of the connection between income and mental health?

– Why do many people with mental illness struggle with the cost of living?

– Do you know people with mental illness represent one of the largest disability groups to receive social assistance?

Unfortunately, as costs of living increase (especially for those with disabilities), minimum wage hovers below the poverty line. Is enough being done to address the relationship between mental illness and income?

Costs of Mental Illness

The cost of living is high, but the cost of living with a disability is higher. In addition to affording nutritious food, rent, utilities, and transportation, people with mental illness must earn enough money to afford:

– Medication.
– Regular doctor appointments.
– Therapy, counseling, and other treatment plans.
– Safe and assistive living environments.
– Community involvement activities.

Minimum Wage Jobs

Some people with mental illness are able to land part-time or full-time jobs. However, it is difficult for them to find work that pays more than minimum wage. In some places, like Ontario, minimum wage is below the poverty line. This exacerbates the point that it is hard for people with mental illness to afford costs of living.

Receiving and earning small amounts of money to live on can start a domino effect which leads to homelessness. Also attached is the reality that individuals who have mental illness cannot afford health services they need, and as a result, receive inadequate care for their situations.

What Can Be Done?

Earning an income may seem hopeless, but there are solutions. The best way to build up an income that can support daily living expenses is to research all available government assistance programs, charitable aid, and local organizations.

These resources may assist research efforts in some parts of Canada:

Also, seek employment. Working a few hours a week at a nearby job may bring in enough money to help with groceries or transportation costs. Be honest about mental illness and abilities when talking to potential employers. Looking presentable and confident allows them to look past stereotypes and appreciate unique qualities of an individual.

In addition, do everything possible to cut down on expenses. This may involve finding local food pantries or discount grocers. If utility bills and transportation costs are too high, contact distributors and service providers. Again, be honest about abilities and restraints. There are people who understand the disadvantages of living with a mental illness; these individuals may know about programs that exist to help.

Let’s Talk About It

What solutions have you found for supporting yourself on a low income?

Do you feel like systems of support are too complicated?

Have you received sufficient aid from government or other programs?


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