On the Job: Notre Dame provides transitional employment for people with mental illness

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Since 2017, the University has welcomed about a dozen Clubhouse members as transitional employees.

Since 2017, the University has welcomed about a dozen Clubhouse members as transitional employees.

For many people living with mental illness, employment is an important step on the road to recovery, linked with positive notions of identity and self-worth, as well as quality of life. Yet the unemployment rate for people with mental illness is remarkably high — as much as 80 percent, according to one estimate, compared to less than 4 percent for the general population. This even as the majority of people with mental illness — six in 10, according to one estimate — want to work.

The reasons are complicated, but two stand out: lack of experience, or gaps in experience, on the part of people with mental illness, and continued stigma around mental illness among many employers. Each contributes to the other in a self-perpetuating cycle of exclusion.

But with support from the University of Notre Dame, Clubhouse of St. Joseph County is attacking the problem head-on, creating opportunities for both employers and people with mental illness.

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