For many people, being employed and going to work is important for general health and wellbeing.

As well as providing us with an income, working can:

  • give us a sense of purpose
  • build confidence and self-esteem
  • help us to feel independent
  • create social contacts
  • help to prevent physical and mental health issues

Being employed can be an important step to personal recovery for people with mental health issues, by improving their confidence and self-esteem and helping to reduce psychological distress.

Unemployment can increase the risk of developing mental health issues, and is a factor when it comes to increased rates of depression and suicide as well as higher use of health services.

Employment can therefore be vital for maintaining good mental health and promoting recovery from mental health problems.

Those with mental health issues who feel able to begin work might need to be supported to find employment by:

  • health services
  • employment services (such as the Government’s Access To Work programme)
  • employers making reasonable adjustments (e.g. providing flexible working arrangements, gradual return to work after time off, counselling or peer support services)

Find out more about the government Access to Work programme.

It is important that employment is fulfilling and meaningful however. Having a job that is insecure, very stressful, over or under demanding, or facing situations like bullying and harassment in the workplace will not benefit our health and well-being.


For people living with a mental health issue or those recovering from a period of mental ill health, connecting with other people and getting involved in the local community can be an important part of their recovery. Finding services that fit, however, can be difficult.

Recovery colleges, such as ARCH Recovery College in Durham, are designed to be safe and supportive spaces where people with mental health issues can take classes that are focussed on personal recovery and wellbeing.

The colleges are open to people with mental health issues, their families, carers and professionals.

Peer trainers (people with lived experience of mental health issues) and mental health professionals work together to produce and deliver the courses. Through these classes, students can develop their knowledge, skills, and techniques to be able to manage their own recovery.

Research has shown that when someone attends a recovery college, they tend to have less need for intensive crisis support, and lead a happier and healthier life. They are helping to fill the gap between mental health in-patient care and outpatients’ recovery within the community.

More recovery colleges are opening throughout the UK every year. The first recovery college opened in the UK in 2014 and there are now almost 40 recovery colleges in operation, mainly in England, but also in Scotland, Ireland, and internationally too including Italy, Australia and Japan.

Real Life Experience

If you’d like to share your real life experience, please email tewv.vrc@nhs.net for more information.