Employment and productivity are important domains of human life. When a person with severe and enduring mental illness loses his or her skills to work, vocational rehabilitation is offered as part of the treatment plan to enable the individual to become a contributing member to the family again. Vocational rehabilitation enables persons with disabilities to overcome barriers to accessing, maintaining or returning to useful occupations. Health professionals caring for patients with mental health problems have an important role in helping them to return to work. Availability of structured vocational rehabilitation services is patchy in India. SCARF since its inception 30 years ago has been focussing on rehabilitation and has been offering vocational rehabilitation as part of its services.
A one day workshop on Vocational Rehabilitation was organized at SCARF, in collaboration with the MS Chellamuthu Trust and co-sponsored by the World Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, with the objective of orienting professionals involved in the care of persons with serious mental illnesses, in delivering vocational rehabilitation in various parts of Tamil nadu.
The participants included other NGOs of different parts of Tamilnadu and staff from SCARF. The workshop introduced participants to concepts in vocational rehabilitation, the different models of delivering services, and practice in methods of assessment for vocational rehabilitation. The speakers were experts from The Banyan, Aasha, NIMHANS, M S Chellamuthu Trust, and SCARF.
Dr. K V Kishore of The Banyan, Chennai, focused on various concepts in Vocational Rehabilitation, using the Banyan model as an example. Dr. T Shivakumar from NIMHANS expanded on practical issues pertaining to pre-vocational assessments and assessing if clients were ready to work. He stressed on the need for an in-depth understanding of the patient’s interests, capacities, and inabilities as a necessary step in vocational rehabilitation. Using the example of Athmanirbhar, an NGO that aims to accelerate rehabilitation for people with mental health issues by creating sustainable employment opportunities for them., Tanya Dutta of Aasha, Chennai provided insights into the challenges in open market employment and self-employment emphasizing on the necessary training that needs to be put in. Subhashini Gopal, Psychologist from SCARF elaborated on cognitive deficits as a barrier to getting a job and sustaining in one.Dr.Lakshnmi Venkataraman underlined the need for Motivational Interviewing as a method of evaluating and improving the client’s motivation in Vocational Rehabilitation. Dr. C Ramasubramanium, Chellamuthu Trust, Madurai, detailed schemes offered by the Tamil Nadu government. Mr. Kotteeswara Rao highlighted on how vocational rehabilitation is done in the rural areas while describing how challenges were met. The panel of experts answered various questions raised by the participants – providing useful insights into methods of delivering vocational rehabilitation.
Overall, the workshop provided an initiative for a platform for mental health professionals to engage in discussions on various aspects of Vocational Rehabilitation for persons with mental illnesses.