Getting Back to Work

Work has many benefits.  Not only does it provide a paycheck but it also provides a sense of purpose, opportunities to learn new skills, and social opportunities abound within the work setting and beyond.  But for many people experiencing a serious mental illness their ability to obtain/maintain employment gets interrupted.  Many individuals need assistance when their illness symptoms are at their worst and take advantage of social support programs such as Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income, Medicare and or Medicaid. 

When in the course of recovery individuals begin to think about getting back to work it can all seem quite daunting.  Will I lose my disability income?  If I start working will I lose my medical benefits? My illness started when I was a teenager and I’ve never had a job before, so how do I get started?  Or I have had some work experience but now I have a huge gap in my resume, how do I explain that?  Or perhaps your life had some additional bumps in the road and you now have some arrests or criminal convictions on your record which could interfere with employment an housing.

On this page we have pulled together some resources that exist to help you plan your transition back into the work world when you are ready.


Start With a Basic Knowledge of Work Issues

Meaningful Work and Recovery by Mental Health America this web page provides a nice overview of work related issues for individuals in recovery to think about prior to returning to work.  We suggest you start with this article so that you can be aware of the many things you may need to address to be successful in your transition into the work world. 

Meaningful Work and Recovery

A Practical Guide for People with Mental Health Conditions Who Want to Work – compiled by the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion.  This 15 chapter, 253 page pamphlet provides thorough information on many issues facing individuals returning to work such as overcoming barriers, self assessment, applying for jobs, resumes and interviews, social security work incentives, workers rights and accommodations, dealing with discrimination and harassment, preparing for work and planning future work goals.

Practical Guide for People with Mental Health Conditions Who Want to Work



The Next Step: Understanding how your benefits will be affected by returning to work:

While there are still federal and state policies that create barriers for those trying to return to work there are several good incentive programs that can help the transition back to work.

Work Incentives for people on Social Security Disability (SSD) and on Supplemental Security Income (SSI):    Social Security Work Incentives Pamphlet

Medical Assistance for Workers with A Disability (MAWD):  PA Medical Assistance MAWD Program Page

PA ABLE Savings Account Program this is a new program that is launching this spring April 2017.  For more info go to:  PA ABLE WEBSITE

The Pennsylvania Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act gives individuals with qualified disabilities (eligible individuals), and their families and friends, a tax-free way to save for a wide range of disability-related expenses, while maintaining government benefits  Modeled after college savings accounts, the federal tax-free savings and investment options are offered to encourage individuals with a disability and their families to save private funds to support health, independence and quality of life.


Employment Tips for People with Legal Histories Webinar Jan 25, 2017 – sponsored by PeerLink National Technical Assistance Center.      Employment Tips Webinar


Peer Link also has Employment Tips Sheets on the following topics:   PeerLink Employment Tip Sheets

  • Addressing Legal History
  • Disclosing to Employers
  • How to Write a Resume
  • Reasonable Accommodations


Employment Rights for People with Mental Illness – an article by Web MD: Web MD – Artcile on Employment Rights


The following site can be used for you to learn a bit about yourself/personality and how that relates to job,  it can help you learn about particular types of jobs and what those job involve

University of Kent Career Center: University of Kent Career Center

Other Resources

If you know of any other resources that would we should have on this page please let us know!


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