UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


The Meaning of Work for Young Adults Diagnosed With Serious Mental Health Conditions

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry, Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Psychology | Mental and Social Health | Mental Disorders | Psychiatry and Psychology


OBJECTIVE: Despite the increased recognition of the importance of work for social and psychological well-being, the meaning of work for young adults with serious mental health conditions is understudied. This study uses a participatory action research approach to explore the economic, social and psychological significance of work for young adults diagnosed with psychiatric disabilities.

METHOD: We conducted 57 one-hour semistructured interviews with young adults between the ages of 18 to 30 enrolled in 3 well established vocational support programs. NVivo 8 software was used to sort and systematically organize the interview data.

RESULTS: Young adults with psychiatric disabilities work in part for financial independence from their family but also for additional reasons. Work provides the opportunity for social engagement and feelings of contributing to society as a whole. For some young adults, work provides the opportunity to enhance their self-esteem, self-confidence, and a positive self-image. For Latino young adults, work provides a way to cope with their mental illness.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Our findings provide pertinent information for vocational rehabilitation services, recovery programs, and even parents on the importance of connecting young adults to jobs that enhance self-esteem and self-efficacy and are in line with their personal interests. Future research is needed to understand potential cultural and age differences in the meaning of work.

DOI of Published Version



Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2016 Jun 13. [Epub ahead of print] Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Psychiatric rehabilitation journal

PubMed ID